P3: Does cGMP signaling in VSMCs and platelets affect their biomechanical properties and arterial stiffness?


To determine the role of cGMP signaling for biomechanical remodeling of vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) and platelets and its effect on aortic wall stiffening.

Questions and Methods

cGMP and Vascular Biomechanics

Boston Internship

Seta Lab

In the Seta lab in Boston, the doctoral researchers will be trained in vascular biology. Specifically, they will learn about

  1. arterial stiffness,
  2. pulse wave velocity, and
  3. molecular biology of VSMCs.

Our conceptual hypothesis that cGMP signaling regulates biomechanics at a cellular level should give important insights into the various models of diseases within the consortium.

Boston Co-mentor

Assist. Prof. Francesca Seta, PhD

Link to Boston researcher lab

Doctoral Students

Johanna Gabriela Rodriguez Cabezas

Johanna Rodríguez earned her BSc (Hons) in Pharmacology & Physiology at the University of Manchester (United Kingdom). During her bachelor thesis, she focused on the study of selective inhibitors of Tyrosine Phosphatases through docking and protein structural analysis. After her bachelor, she did an Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degree in Nanomedicine for Drug Delivery with a specialization in “Production and Biotechnology applications of Nanomedicine”. She completed her first year of MSc at University Paris Descartes (France) and her second year at the University of Pavia (Italy). In her master’s thesis she studied the “Design, development, and characterisation in-vitro of theranostic nanobubbles for the treatment of pancreatic cancer” in the laboratory of Pharmaceutical Technology at the University of Turin (Italy). Recently, Johanna has joined the laboratory of Tilman Schäffer to do her doctoral studies. Here, her research focuses on cGMP signalling pathway, cardiovascular diseases, vascular biomechanics, and knockout mice in-vivo models.

Aylin Balmes

Aylin Balmes earned her BSc in Nano-Science at the University of Tübingen. During her bachelor thesis she studied the migration of blood platelets with phase contrast microscopy. After her bachelor she did the corresponding MSc in Nano-Science also at the University of Tübingen. With her elective courses she focused mostly on physics, especially biophysics. In her master thesis she studied the viscoelastic properties of cells with scanning ion conductance microscopy. On the side she is also pursuing a BSc in Physics. Aylin is now pursuing a PhD in the laboratory of Prof. Dr. Tilman Schäffer where she investigates the role of cGMP from a physics point of view.

Hendrik von Eysmondt (associated PhD student)

Hendrik von Eysmondt developed an interest in biophysics early in his B.Sc. of Biology at the RWTH Aachen, Germany, leading to a Bachelor thesis about the unidirectional growth of neuronal axons with microfluidics at the Institute of Biological Information Processing - Bioelectronics (IBI-3) at the Forschungszentrum Jülich.
He continued his studies in Aachen, obtaining his M.Sc. in Biology with a Master thesis in the adaptation of the sFIDA assay for an amyloidogenic protein in type 2 diabetes in his work at the Institute of Complex Systems 6 (ICS-6) at the Forschungszentrum Jülich. 
Recently, he has joined the lab of Prof. Dr. Tilman Schäffer at the University of Tübingen to obtain his PhD, focusing on the mechanical properties of blood platelets, especially in the context of lipid interactions.

Konstantin Krutzke (associated PhD student)

Konstantin Krutzke gained his interdisciplinary knowledge in natural sciences during his BSc in Nano-Science at the University of Hamburg. For his bachelor thesis he investigated the removal of cytotoxic CTAB of gold nanorods for possible biological applications such as medical diagnostics or treatments. For his ongoing scientific career, he accomplished his MSc in Nano-Science at University of Hamburg in the field of micro-fluidics at the department of applied physics. He investigated the implementation of micro-fluidic, PDMS based nozzles for single particle imaging at the Hamburg based DESY as well as at research facility EuXFEL. For his doctoral studies Konstantin joined the lab of Prof. Dr. Tilman Schäffer at the University of Tübingen to investigate human thrombocyte volume changes with SICM in response to osmotic pressure.

Jan Seifert (associated Postdoc)

Jan Seifert studied physics at the University of Erlangen with focus on medical physics. For his diploma thesis he joined the lab of Prof. Tilman Schäffer and obtained knowledge about scanning probe microscopy in biological and medical applications. During his PhD he investigated shape changes and cytoskeletal dynamics in human platelets during activation with fast scanning ion conductance microscopy. As a postdoc, he gained interest in machine learning and currently focuses on the application of deep learning neural networks in optical platelet morphometry and the implementation of deep learning for measurement automation in scanning probe microscopy.

Key Publications

Seifert J, Rheinlaender J, von Eysmondt H, Schäffer TE. Mechanics of migrating platelets investigated with scanning ion conductance microscopy. Nanoscale 2022, 14:8192-9. doi:10.1039/D2NR01187E

Baumann J, Sachs L, Otto O, Schoen I, Nestler P, Zaninetti C, Kenny M, Kranz R, von Eysmondt H, Rodriguez J, Schäffer TE, Nagy Z, Greinacher A, Palankar R, Bender M. Reduced platelet forces underlie impaired hemostasis in mouse models of MYH9-related disease. Sci Adv 2022, 8:eabn2627. doi:10.1126/sciadv.abn2627

Nestele JA, Rohlfing A-K, Dicenta V, Bild A, Eißler D, Emschermann F, Kremser M, Krutzke K, Schäffer TE, Borst O, Levi M, Korin N, Gawaz MP. Characterization of GPVI- or GPVI-CD39-coated nanoparticles and their impact on in vitro thrombus formation. Int J Mol Sci 2022, 23:11. doi:10.3390/ijms23010011

Seifert J, von Eysmondt H, Chatterjee M, Gawaz M, Schäffer TE. Effect of oxidized low-density lipoproteins on platelet shape, spreading, and migration investigated with deep learning platelet morphometry. Cells 2021, 10, 2932. doi: 10.3390/cells10112932

Schierbaum N, Rheinlaender J, Schäffer TE. Viscoelastic properties of normal and cancerous human breast cells are affected differently by contact to adjacent cells. Acta Biomater 2017, 55:239-48. doi:10.1016/j.actbio.2017.04.006