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Kay Herbig

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Role of endothelial progenitor cells in cardiovascular disorders

Previous and current research


Cardiovascular research has recently uncovered an important new area of defence against arteriosclerosis, related to the role of adult stem cells and to so called circulating endothelial progenitor cells. The term endothelial progenitor cells reflects the ability of bone marrow derived cells to mature into cells that line the lumen of blood vessels.
Past research activities focused on the role of endothelial progenitor cells in patients at high risk for cardiovascular events. We therefore studied the role of these cells in hemodialysis, patients with impaired glucose tolerance and rheumatoid arthritis. We have demonstrated that end stage renal disease is a state of endothelial progenitor cell dysfunction. In patients with rheumatoid arthritis we found a reduced number of endothelial progenitor cells which is inversely correlated to the level of microinflammation as indicated by interleukin-6. Rosiglitazone a new insulin-sensitizing drug improves endothelial function in type 2 diabetes. It is unknown whether these effects depend on the metabolic action or on other pleiotropic properties of thiazolidinediones. In a pilot study we observed that the PPAR gamma-agonist rosiglitazone increased number and function of endothelial progenitor cells in patients with impaired glucose tolerance.

Future prospects and goals


Based on our previous clinical findings we will use in vitro models for clarification of mechanisms responsible for uremia-associated endothelial progenitor cell dysfunction.

  •     Identification of uremic toxins which are responsible for the impaired endothelial progenitor cell
        dysfunction observed in end stage renal disease.
  •     Does kidney transplantation improve endothelial progenitor cell dysfunction?
  •     Is parathyroid hormone lowering-therapy associated with an increase of circulating endothelial
        progenitor cells?



Selected publications

  1. Herbrig K, Pistrosch F, Oelschlaegel U, Wichmann G, Wagner A, Foerster S, Richter S, Gross P, Passauer J. (2004): Increased total number but impaired migratory activity and adhesion of endothelial progenitor cells in patients on long-term hemodialysis. Am J Kidney Dis. 44:840-9.
  2. Pistrosch F, Herbrig K, Oelschlaegel U, Richter S, Passauer J, Fischer S, Gross P (2005): PPARgamma-agonist rosiglitazone increases number and migratory activity of cultured endothelial progenitor cells. Atherosclerosis. 183:163-7.
  3. Herbrig K, Haensel S, Oelschlaegel U, Pistrosch F, Foerster S, Passauer J (2005): Endothelial dysfunction in patients with rheumatoid arthritis is associated with a reduced number and impaired function of endothelial progenitor cells. Ann Rheum Dis. 65:157-63.
  4. Herbrig K, Pistrosch F, Foerster S, Gross P (2006). Endothelial Progenitor Cells in Chronic Renal Insufficiency. Kidney Blood Press Res. 29(1):24-31.



Curriculum vitae


2003: MD at the university of Dresden

since 2001: fellow at the Division of Nephrology, Medical Clinic III