SIR WILFRID LE GROS CLARK PRIZE LECTURE: Cardiovascular Ageing: Unraveling the Interplay of Vessels, Nerves, and Inflammation

Aging poses a significant risk to cardiovascular health and leads to an increase in diastolic and systolic impairment, endothelial cell dysfunction, hypertrophy, fibrosis, and electrophysiological alterations, increasing susceptibility to arrhythmic events in the elderly. The mechanisms driving age-associated cardiovascular changes are not fully understood. Our preliminary findings indicate a decline in axon density within the aging heart. Recognizing the pivotal role of neuro-vascular interactions in maintaining tissue homeostasis, we hypothesize that a compromised neuro-vascular interface contributes to age-related cardiac pathologies. Our study showed a significant reduction of nerve density in the aging heart. We further explored the mechanisms and identified an induction of the repulsive Semaphorin 3a (SEMA3A) in senescent endothelial cells. Eliminating senescent cells by senolytics rescued the age-associated decline in nerve density, and ameliorated immune cell invasion and age-associated alterations in cardiac function. In summary, our comprehensive investigation unraveal the previously unexplored dynamics of neuro-vascular interactions in the aging heart. We suggest that restoring or preserving a functional cross-talk between neurons and the vasculature holds promise for promoting healthy cardiac aging.


Stefanie Dimmeler is born on 18.07.1967 in Ravensburg, Germany. Dr. Dimmeler received her undergraduate, graduate, and Ph.D. degree from the University of Konstanz in Konstanz (Germany) and then completed a fellowship in Experimental Surgery at the University of Cologne and in Molecular Cardiology at the University of Frankfurt (Germany). She is Professor of Experimental Medicine (since 2001) and Director of the Institute of Cardiovascular Regeneration, Center for Molecular Medicine at the University of Frankfurt since 2008.

In the last years, she has been invited as a speaker in more than 300 national and international meetings and seminars and has presented various keynote lectures. She also received several awards and is among the top 3 female Scientists in Germany. She is also spokesperson of the “Cardiopulmonary Institute” (CPI) which is funded by the Excellence Strategy Program of the German Research Foundation and spokesperson of the German Center for Cardiovascular Research (DZHK). She also received three Advanced Investigator Grants by the European Research Community (ERC).

Her group elucidates the basic mechanisms underlying cardiovascular disease and vessel growth with the aim to develop new cellular and pharmacological therapies for improving the treatment of cardiovascular disease. Ongoing research focuses on epigenetic mechanisms that control cardiovascular repair, specifically non-coding RNAs.