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Our focus at ZIK HIKE is the study of the molecular origins of immune disorders leading to cardiovascular disease. The inappropriate immune response in these disorders can be induced by previous infections, biologic drugs or immune system disturbance. The results obtained will help in the individual treatment of cardiovascular diseases and in the avoidance of drug side-effects.


Cardiovascular disease is a widespread health problem. It is already known to be associated with high blood pressure, arteriosclerosis, cardiac insufficiency and clotting disorders.

Newer information indicates that reactions by the individual's own immune system can play an important role in causing cardiovascular disease.


The ZIK HIKE (Humorale Immunreaktionen bei kardiovaskulären Erkrankungen - Humoral Immune Responses in cardiovascular disease) center has set itself the goal of researching the role played by the individual's own immune system in the genesis of cardiovascular illness, giving special attention to the way in which antibodies exert their effects. We concentrate here upon two specific forms of illness, both of which are caused by similar processes:

  • cardiovascular disease resulting from the formation of autoantibodies following the use of drugs produced by biotechnology (e.g. heparin-induced thrombocytopenia)
  • antibody responses to heart muscle weakness (e.g. dilated cardiomyopathy, DCM)

Our research work involves identifying the relevant antigens and characterizing the mechanisms leading to the formation of complex antigens. We also study the disease processes triggered by autoantibodies.

Specialization in immunohematology and cardiology is essential here but our work also requires skills in using the high resolution imaging techniques grounded in biophysics and the analytic techniques of nanotechnology. Our Innovation Center brings these skills together.

Germany's Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) targets initiatives with high innovation potential for support, establishing "centers of innovative competence". In April 2008, HIKE was selected by BMBF to set up a top-level research centre. ZIK HIKE started work on 1 January 2010 with two talented young research teams, one focusing on nanostructure and the other investigating the cellular immune response.