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Portrait Stefan R. Bornstein

The unravelling of the human genome and proteome opens new avenues for defining the complex cellular interactions of the neuroendocrine and immune system, and its relevance for disease.

  1. Defining basic mechanisms and clinical implications of cellular crosstalk in endocrine tissues. We analyse, in a comprehensive manner, the components and mechanisms of this cellular crosstalk by defining the involved receptors, signalling pathways, transcription factors and gene expression profiles. Using the adrenal gland as a model we have demonstrated that tissue integrity, input from the nervous system or intercellular communication is essential for the normal functioning of the gland and the adequate respond to the homeostatic challenges of stress. We have demonstrated that intact intraglandular cellular interactions are required for normal development, differentiation and zonation of the adrenals and that alterations in intercellular communication, local production of neuropeptides, growth factors and cytokines, and aberrant expression of ectopic receptors are implicated in adrenal hyperplasia, autonomic hormone production, tumour formation and dysregulated hormone production. The latter changes often promote the development of metabolic disorders, which affect local and systemic inflammation both by causing enhanced susceptibility to the infectious agents e.g. SARS-CoV-2 as well as by influencing the severity and course of the disease.
  2. Overweight and obesity and diabetes are increasing at an alarming rate worldwide, reaching alarming epidemic proportion in the westernized world. Obesity is the major risk factor for lipid abnormalities, atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus type 2 and certain types of cancer. It is well established now that adipose tissue, besides its role in the deposition and release of fatty acids, is a highly active endocrine organ. We are interested in this endocrine function of adipose tissue and its involvement in the development of obesity associated diseases, especially the influence on the stress system, myocardiocytes and pancreatic beta-cells. We have developed new strategies for the regeneration of metabolic disease and the cure of diabetes. We are the only active centre for islet TX in Germany testing new replacement strategies
Stefan Bornstein Research: Figure
Fig.: Adrenal microenvironment with its different cell types: the interactions thereof are important mechanistic components during adrenal (dys)function. The involved researchers have complementary expertise in each of the cellular compartments.

Future Projects and Goals

Based on our previous findings we will use integrated approaches in both research areas using a wide array of techniques. This is a logical consequence of our previous work and a translation of basic science into regenerative and clinical medicine.

  • How does cellular crosstalk translate into differential intercellular signalling, transcriptional regulation and gene expression?
  • Metabolic drivers of infection susceptibility
  • What can we learn from transgenic animal models?
  • Role of SARS-CoV-2 in the endocrine stress axis
  • New therapeutic strategies based on a thorough understanding of this form of integrative medicine.

Methodological and Technical Expertise

  • Intra vital microscopy
  • Transgenic mouse models
  • Organ chamber
  • Adrenal 3-dimensional spheroid cultures
  • Animal models of systemic inflammation and sepsis

Currently Recruiting

Stefan R. Bornstein is recruiting in the PhD Summer Selection 2024 (call is closed)

Open Projects
  • Characterization of adrenal gland susceptibility to viral and bacterial infections
    Preferred Course of Study/Expertise of Candidate: We seek motivated persons interested in immunology, microbiology, and translational biomedical sciences. Experience with cell culture systems and microbiology is an advantage but is not required

    This project will be conducted through collaboration between TUD, the University of Zurich, and ETH Zurich. It is part of the International Research Training Group Metabolic and Endocrine Drivers of Infection Susceptibility (IRTG3019). Within this collaboration, students will have the opportunity to obtain a joint certificate from TUD and the universities in Zurich.

  • Metabolic and immunologic influences of post-acute infection syndromes (PAISs)
    Preferred Course of Study/Expertise of Candidate: Statistical epidemiology, Molecular biology, Immunology/Infectious Diseases

    This project will be conducted through collaboration between TUD, the University of Zurich, and ETH Zurich. It is part of the International Research Training Group Metabolic and Endocrine Drivers of Infection Susceptibility (IRTG3019). Within this collaboration, students will have the opportunity to obtain a joint certificate from TUD and the universities in Zurich.


Since 2015
Transcampus Dean, King’s College London, London, UK

Since 2013
Vice Dean for Development and International Affairs

Since 2010
Member of the German Academy of Science (Leopoldina)

Since 2004
Director and Chair, Deparment of Medicine, University Clinic of Dresden

Professor and Vice-Chair at the Department of Endocrinology and Metabolism, University of Düsseldorf

Research fellow and Unit chief at the Endocrine Branch, NICHD, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, USA

Heisenberg-Scholarship of the German Research Society (DFG)

Senior physician at the Clinic of Internal Medicine, University of Leipzig

Resident and fellow at the Clinic of Internal Medicine, University of Ulm

MD at the University of Ulm

More Information

Selected Publications

Kanczkowski W, Evert K, Stadtmüller M, Haberecker M, Laks L, Chen LS, Frontzek K, Pablik J, Hantel C, Beuschlein F, Kurth T, Gruber S, Aguzzi A, Varga Z, Bornstein SR
COVID-19 targets human adrenal glands.
Lancet Diabetes Endocrinol. 2022 Jan;10(1):13-16.
doi: 10.1016/S2213-8587(21)00291-6. 

Steenblock C, Richter S, Berger I, Barovic M, Schmid J, Schubert U, Jarzebska N, von Mässenhausen A, Linkermann A, Schürmann A, Pablik J, Dienemann T, Evert K, Rodionov RN, Semenova NY, Zinserling VA, Gainetdinov RR, Baretton G, Lindemann D, Solimena M, Ludwig B, Bornstein SR.
Viral infiltration of pancreatic islets in patients with COVID-19.
Nat Commun. 2021 Jun 10;12(1):3534.
doi: 10.1038/s41467-021-23886-3

Rodionov RN, Biener A, Spieth P, Achleitner M, Hölig K, Aringer M, Mingrone G, Corman VM, Drosten C, Bornstein SR, Tonn T, Kolditz M. 
Potential benefit of convalescent plasma transfusions  in  immunocompromised  patients  with  COVID-19
Lancet  Microbe. 2021 Apr;2(4):e138.
doi: 10.1016/S2666-5247(21)00030-6

Bornstein SR, Rubino F, Khunti K, Mingrone G, Hopkins D, Birkenfeld AL, Boehm B, Amiel S, Holt RI, Skyler JS, DeVries JH, Renard E, Eckel RH, Zimmet P, Alberti KG, Vidal J, Geloneze B, Chan JC, Ji L, Ludwig B.
Practical recommendations for the management of diabetes in patients with COVID-19
Lancet Diabetes Endocrinol. 2020 Jun;8(6):546-550.
doi: 10.1016/S2213-8587(20)30152-2

Belavgeni A*, Bornstein SR*, von Mässenhausen A, Tonnus W, Stumpf J, Meyer C, Othmar E, Latk M, Kanczkowski W, Kroiss M, Hantel C, Hugo C, Fassnacht M, Ziegler CG, Schally AV, Krone NP, Linkermann A.
Exquisite sensitivity of adrenocortical carcinomas to induction of  ferroptosis.
Proc  Natl  Acad  Sci  U  S  A.  2019  Oct  29;116(44):22269-22274
doi: 10.1073/pnas.1912700116


University Hospital Carl Gustav Carus
Technische Universität Dresden
Fetscherstraße 74
01307 Dresden