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Alte Nervenklinik Campus Charité Mitte

Research Group Döhner

Interdisciplinary Stroke Research

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Prof. Dr. Dr. med. Wolfram Döhner

Head of Research Group Döhner (Interdiscplinary Stroke Research)

CVK: Campus Virchow-Klinikum

Portrait of Prof. Dr. Dr. med. Wolfram Döhner


Dr. Doehner is professor for interdisciplinary stroke research at the CSB. He is also a cardiologist, specialist for internal medicine and for nutritional medicine, and is associated scientist with the Department of Cardiology, Angiology and Intensive Care Medicine at Charité (Campus Virchow-Klinikum) and the Center for Regenerative Therapies (BCRT). In his clinical work, cardiovascular expertise is linked with stroke acute therapy and rehabilitation. His research is focused on metabolic pathophysiology in chronic disease contributing to peripheral tissue wasting, muscle loss, sarcopenia and cachexia.

Wolfram Döhner coordinates the "Study Group on Heart and Brain Interaction in Patients with Heart Failure" of the European Association of Heart Failure (HFA). He is an ex officio Board Member of the Council on Stroke (Chair 2018–2020; Vice-Chair 2016–2018) of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).

Selected publications

Joint statement of the European Association for the Study of Obesity and the European Society of Hypertension: obesity and heart failure.
Jordan J, Toplak H, Grassi G, Yumuk V, Kotsis V, Engeli S, Cuspidi C, Nilsson PM, Finer N, Doehner W.
J Hypertens. 2016 Sep;34(9):1678-88. doi: 10.1097/HJH.0000000000001013.

Evaluation of C-terminal Agrin Fragment as a marker of muscle wasting in patients after acute stroke during early rehabilitation.
Scherbakov N, Knops M, Ebner N, Valentova M, Sandek A, Grittner U, Dahinden P, Hettwer S, Schefold JC, von Haehling S, Anker SD, Joebges M, Doehner W.
J Cachexia Sarcopenia Muscle. 2016 Mar;7(1):60-7. doi: 10.1002/jcsm.12068.

Influence of essential amino acids on muscle mass and muscle strength in patients with cerebral stroke during early rehabilitation: protocol and rationale of a randomized clinical trial (AMINO-Stroke Study).
Scherbakov N, Ebner N, Sandek A, Meisel A, Haeusler KG, von Haehling S, Anker SD, Dirnagl U, Joebges M, Doehner W.
BMC Neurol. 2016 Jan 22;16:10. doi: 10.1186/s12883-016-0531-5.

Protective overweight in cardiovascular disease: moving from 'paradox' to 'paradigm'.
Doehner W, von Haehling S, Anker SD.
Eur Heart J. 2015 Oct 21;36(40):2729-32. doi: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehv414. No abstract available.

Stroke-related sarcopenia: specific characteristics.
Scherbakov N, Sandek A, Doehner W.
J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2015 Apr;16(4):272-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jamda.2014.12.007. Review.

Catabolic signaling and muscle wasting after acute ischemic stroke in mice: indication for a stroke-specific sarcopenia.
Springer J, Schust S, Peske K, Tschirner A, Rex A, Engel O, Scherbakov N, Meisel A, von Haehling S, Boschmann M, Anker SD, Dirnagl U, Doehner W.
Stroke. 2014 Dec;45(12):3675-83. doi: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.114.006258.

Stroke induced Sarcopenia: muscle wasting and disability after stroke.
Scherbakov N, von Haehling S, Anker SD, Dirnagl U, Doehner W.
Int J Cardiol. 2013 Dec 10;170(2):89-94. doi: 10.1016/j.ijcard.2013.10.031. Review.


Loss of skeletal muscle (sarcopenia) is a major yet understudied complication after stroke. The skeletal muscle is the main effector organ accountable for disability in stroke (60 % of patients remain with some physical disablement). However, a surprising paucity of data exists for structural, metabolic or functional changes in muscle tissue after stroke, as disability is traditionally attributed to the brain injury itself. Changes in muscle tissue start as early as four hours after cerebral infarction, and a complex interaction between denervation, disuse, inflammation, remodeling and spasticity accounts for a phenotypical pattern that we have addressed as stroke-specific sarcopenia.

Importantly, studies from our group and from others show that the wasting of muscle tissue is not limited to the affected paralytic limb. Indeed, a global effect of catabolic over-activation and anabolic blunting affects all skeletal muscles and even the myocardium. As a result, the functional impairment of patients after stroke is not only driven by the paralytic motoric disablement but is further aggravated by the global decrease of muscle tissue. Any effort to prevent and/or reverse such muscle wasting may improve functional capacity and will help to regain physical independence.

Currently, stroke-related muscle wasting (sarcopenia) is not recognized in the guide-lines for stroke therapy and rehabilitation. The lack of sufficient evidence on post-stroke muscle pathology, tissue degradation and metabolic and functional impairment needs to be addressed in an interdisciplinary integrated approach. Innovative interventional approaches to prevent or attenuate muscle atrophy and sarcopenia will support patient rehabilitation and improve long-term outcome.

Most important projects

AMINO-Stroke – Effect of Essential Amino Acids on Muscle Size and Strength in Patients with Acute Ischemic Stroke during Rehabilitation

This study assess the effect of essential amino acid supplementation on muscle wasting, muscle strength, mobility, and self-dependence in patients during rehabilitation after acute stroke.

Further projects

Muscle Functional and Metabolic Changes in Patients during Rehabilitation
Rehabilitation efforts after stroke aim to restore functional capacity and independence in everyday life. We investigate muscle structural, metabolic and functional changes in stroke patients during hospitalized rehabilitation periods.

Local Activation of Skeletal Muscle Apoptosis after Stroke in a Stroke Model
Direct signaling and specific stroke-induced muscle changes are investigated in a mouse model of stroke (MCAO). Early results indicate direct time-dependent signals towards increased protein degradation and apoptotic activity in relation to cerebral infarction size and degree of denervation. Pathways of proteolytic signaling and apoptosis and specific treatments to inhibit these effects are being tested.

Patients with Persistent Vegetative State are studied in longitudinal observational studies (WAKOS) to investigate the change in metabolic balance and to monitor the body composition relating to the course of the disease, and complications such as infections.

Professor Doehner is the national PI of the "SECURE" project, an EU-funded (HORIZON 2020) multinational controlled interventional trial to study the efficacy of a polypill over current standards of care in patients with advanced cardiovascular disease after myocardial infarction.

Clinical randomized controlled trial (IIT) to investigate the metabolic effect of metformin in patients with heart failure and insulin resistance (non-diabetes mellitus) on performance, myocardial function and metabolism. The study is funded by the German Centre for Cardiovascular Research (DZHK) as part of the study program for early clinical trials.


  • Nadja Scherbakov, MD
    Clinical Scientist
  • Anja Kresse
    Study Nurse
  • Antje Meyer, PhD
    Clinical Scientist and Project Manager
  • Melanie Heigl
    Study Coordinator
  • Kathleen Weigt
    Project Coordinator
  • Azadeh Shafieesabet
    Clinical Research Fellow

Higher degree students
Several MD students, Master students, DAAD students

Research fields

  • Interdisciplinary complications in stroke
  • Metabolic regulation in acute and chronic disease and during rehabilitation
  • Muscle metabolism and function in stroke and post stroke rehabilitation
  • Cachexia, sarcopenia and frailty in disease, in rehabilitation and in in the elderly
  • Insulin resistance, energy metabolism, xanthine oxidase metabolism in cardiovascular disease
  • Peripheral vascular (endothelium) function
  • Clinical proof-of-concept trials on metabolic interventions in patients with cardiovascular disease


Clinical and experimental studies are performed with a wide range of pathophysiologic and functional tests and methods. 
Observational (cross sectional and longitudinal) as well as interventional studies are included to test novel therapeutic concepts in proof-of-concept trials (AMINOS, IRIS-HF, UDCA-HF, Allopurinol in HF, Leucopene in HF). Metabolic, hormonal and immunological characterization will be performed on a whole body and systemic level, as well as on tissue interstitial and on intra cellular levels. Functional assessment of vascular reactivity (endothelium function), muscle function (strength, fatigability) and metabolism (energy expenditure, skeletal muscle insulin sensitivity), cardiovascular stress response, and respiratory and exercise capacity are established methods with a long-standing experience.

Clinical Methods

Body composition:
Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DEXA Scan) and Bio Impedance to assess total and regional tissue distribution of fat and lean tissue

Peripheral blood flow:
Occlusion plethysmography

Endothelium function:
Reactive hyperaemia assessment (EndoPAT)

Muscle strength:
Handgrip, finger press, knee extension tests, cycling (MOTOMED), treadmill, maximum isometric quadriceps muscle strength, fatigability protocol

Physical function:
Short physical performance battery test, 6-Min Walk Test

Whole body insulin sensitivity:
By intravenous glucose tolerance testing and minimal modelling, short insulin sensitivity test, HOMA

Interstitial tissue metabolites:
Microdialysis in muscle and fat tissue

Energy expenditure:
Indirect calorimetry

Tissue analyses:
Throkar biopsy methods for muscle and fat tissue

Clinical cardiovascular tests:
Echocardiography, 24h ECG recording, spiroergometric exercise testing, non-invasive cardiac output

Experimental studies

Include a number of animal models (MCAO Reperfusion, Hepatoma tumour model, Heart failure model). Pathophysiologic tests in animal models include body composition (NMR spectroscopy) indirect calorimetric testing, 24h activity monitoring, echocardiography. These studies are performed in cooperation with the Department of Experimental Neurology and the Center of Cardiovascular Research (CCR).   

Cooperations and partners

Collaborations within Charité

  • Functional/metabolic profile in CFS patients and effect of immune modulation therapy
    Cooperation with the Institute of Medical Immunology (Prof. C. Scheibenbogen)  
  • Metabolic studies investigating comorbidities in heart failure ("SICA-HF FP7" project, agreement No. 241558)
  • Collaboration with the Department of Cardiology, Angiology and Intensive Care Medicine, Virchow-Klinikum 
  • Studies on micronutrients in patients with cardiovascular hospitalization
    Collaboration with the Institute of Experimental Endocrinology (Prof. Schomburg)

International collaborating partners include

  • University Wroclaw, Poland (Prof. P. Ponikowski, Prof. E. Jankowska) University Hull (Prof. Cleland)
  • IRCCS San Raffaele Pisana, Rome, Italy (Prof. G Rosano)
  • University Golnik, Slovenia  (Prof. M. Lainscak)
  • University of Warwick, UK (Prof. A. Coats)
  • University of Moscow, Russia (Prof. V. Tkachuk)
  • University St.-Petersburg, Russia (Prof. Shlyakhto, Prof. A. Zaritskey)
  • University Madrid, Spain (Prof. J. Castellano, Prof. V. Fuster)
  • University Umeå, Sweden (Prof. M. Henein)

Contributions to various clincal projects within the CSB

  • Stroke Unit Plus

Training and teaching

Prof. Döhner is actively involved in education and postgraduate training at various national and international institutions.

  • Bachelor studies at the University of Potsdam (DIfE) for Nutritional Sciences
  • Online Education Programme of the European Heart Failure Association
  • Supervision of PhD students in various degrees (MD, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and MA students of Nutritional Sciences)
  • Regular invitations to training lectures in numerous clinics (such as the University of Rostock, the Hannover Medical School, the University of Münster, Dresden University and the hospitals of Esslingen, Halle and Heidelberg)
  • Co-authorship of several textbooks

PhD support
We offer a wide range of PhD topics across various studies. Students can therefore apply for a Doctoral Thesis at any time. If interested, please send us your CV and corresponding cover letter as well as information on the timeframe and your main area of interest and existing skills.


  • European Union (SICA-HF, FP7)
  • Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)
  • German Centre for Cardiovascular Research (DZHK)
  • Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD)
  • Hannelore Kohl Stiftung
  • Brandenburgklinik Bernau