Staff – University of Copenhagen

UK NEXS > Staff

Ylva Hellsten

Ylva Hellsten


  • Integrative Physiology

    Nørre Allé 51, 2200 København N, August Krogh Bygningen, Universitetsparken 13, 2100 Københav, Building: 2 sal

    Phone: +45 35 32 16 16Fax: +45 35 32 16 00

Researcher ID: B-3420-2015

Current research

Brief personal background

Ylva Hellsten is group leader of Cardiovascular Research within The Integrative Physiology section The Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sport, University of Copenhagen. She is Professor MSO in Cardiovascular and Exercise Physiology. She received her undergraduate training at Hampshire College and University of Massachusetts, USA and her doctoral training at Karolinska Institute, Department of Physiology, Stockholm Sweden. She has since its beginning in 1993, been part of the Copenhagen Muscle Research Center, funded by the Danish National Research Foundation. She is currently co-Pi of The Copenhagen Women study, a large University funded research project focusing on women’s health and the role of physical activity. In addition she is part of a number of ongoing studies within the area of cardiovascular physiology and physical activity (described below).  Dr. Hellsten works together with a research team presently consisting of four post-doctoral students, three PhD students, a number of masters’ students and technical staff.

  • Regulation of skeletal muscle blood flow
  • Regulation of angiogenesis in skeletal muscle
  • Mechanisms underlying the reduced vascular function in life style related disease adn aging
  • Effect of physical training on vascular function and capillary growth


Research of The Cardiovascular group within the Integrative Physiology Section at NEXS.

Summary of research

The overall aim of our research is to gain knowledge regarding the basal regulation of the human cardiovascular system with a focus on cardiac and skeletal muscle and to understand by what mechanisms physical activity, life style related disease and aging affect cardiovascular function and growth.


More specifically our research is focused on the following areas:

Skeletal muscle blood flow regulation (Michael Nyberg, Lasse Gliemann Hybholt, Jon Egelund, Peter Piil)

Blood flow to the skeletal muscle can increase over 30-fold to accommodate the need for oxygen during muscular work. Blood flow is increased by dilatation of the arterioles supplying the muscle, a process that is highly complex and involves a large number of mechanisms and compounds. Our work in this area is within basic science and focuses on improving the understanding of precisely how the different mechanisms and compounds act and interact.


Life style related disease, aging and cardiovascular impairments (Michael Nyberg, Lasse Gliemann Hybholt, Jon Egelund, Peter Piil)

Physical inactivity and poor nutrition can lead to life style related diseases that are associated with reduced cardiovascular health with impairments occurring both in the function of the heart and of the blood vessels. Similar effects are observed with aging, and in particular when aging is coupled to insufficient physical activity. In our research we aim at understanding more precisely how a poor life style and inactive aging affects the heart and the blood vessels. Our interest in this area covers both men and women and includes aspects from physiological function to detailed molecular mechanisms.


Cardiovascular effects of regular physical activity and nutritional interventions (Michael Nyberg, Lasse Gliemann Hybholt)

Regular physical activity is an effective means of improving cardiovascular health at all ages. We aim to understand how different forms of physical activity affect cardiovascular health and specifically by what mechanisms physical activity improves the heart and the blood vessels. Nutritional interventions is a new area we are moving into where we wish to examine a) how nutrition can optimize the effects of physical activity, particularly in the aged population and b) how diet can affect vascular function by impairing endothelial cell mechanotransduction.



Regulation of growth and regression of capillaries in health and cardiovascular disease (Birgitte Høier, Lasse Gliemann Hybholt, Thorbjørn Åkerstrøm, Anna Lindqvist)

In skeletal muscle the density of the smallest blood vessels, capillaries, is important for optimal diffusion conditions of oxygen but also nutrients, e.g. glucose for muscular work and for removal of metabolic waste products, such as lactate. The density of capillaries in skeletal muscle is highly dependent on the degree of muscle activity where endurance training increases capillarization and an inactive life style decreases capillarization. Our research aims to understand regulation of muscle growth and elucidate how the level of physical activity influences capillary growth and what mechanical and chemical signals that are important for this process. Our research interest in this area includes also the impact of cardiovascular disease on capillary growth and function with a particular focus on a) conditions of severe atherosclerosis leading to peripheral arterial disease and b) the role of capillaries for insulin sensitivity.


The effect of physical activity on platelet function (Martina Slingsby)

Platelets are small cell fragments in the blood that are involved in clotting of blood and the repair of blood vessels. In a healthy cardiovascular system the activation of platelets is well regulated through a balance between factors promoting and inhibiting platelet activation. However, in cardiovascular disease this regulation can become off-balance and leads to the formation of blood clots that can cause serious conditions such as myocardial infarction. Our research in this area.

concerns the role of physical activity on platelet function and, in particular, how physical activity affects the effect of medication given to individuals with poor cardiovascular health.



  • Cardiovascular Physiology
  • Exercise and training phsyiology
  • Regulation of blood flow to skeletal muscle
  • Regulation of angiogenesis in skeletal muscle
  • Mechanisms underlying reduced vascular function in lifestyle related disase
  • Effect of physical training on cardiovascular health

ID: 6748