Development of alternative methods

As part of the German Centre for the Protection of Laboratory Animals (Bf3R), the ZEBET carries out innovative research for the development of alternative methods to animal experiments. This scientific work focusses on replacement and reduction of animal experiments according to the 3R principle. Of particular importance for the development of such methods are state-of-the-art ultrastructural imaging techniques. In addition experimental research, the use and number of animal experiments will assessed by novel biometric approaches, in order to develop new recommendations for the reduction of test animals.

Experimental research

The experimental research focusses on three areas. One focus is the development of novel stem cell-based in vitro model systems as alternatives to animal experiments. These systems are of special importance for basic research and toxicity studies, exactly the areas in which the majority of laboratory animals are used. Stem cells bear an enormous developmental and differentiation potential, thus allowing the study of basic mechanisms of embryonic development and the in vitro testing of substances for embryotoxicological effects.

So-called organ-on-a-chip systems are especially suitable for reproducing the conditions in the human body, as they allow the interaction of different organ-like tissues and their close-to-physiological supply with nutrients and other substances. The ZEBET develops and improves such systems for own research projects on the development of vascular and bone tissues, which can be employed either isolated or in combination with additional organs in a multi-organ-on-a-chip. A future goal is the establishment of internal and external collaboration projects in this area.

In vitro-methods for breast cancer research

Another goal of the ZEBET is the development of in vitro methods to replace or complement animal experiments in breast cancer research, an area in which numerous animals are being currently used. A hallmark of cancer cells is the permanent defective distribution of genetic material during cell division. Knowledge about the underlying cell biological and molecular mechanisms remains incipient, but is of great importance for advancing research on breast cancer. Genetic instability is characterized, among other factors, by errors in mitotic processes and defective signal pathways. Therefore, we will assess a potential association between hormones, mitotic defects, and the development of breast cancer at the molecular and cell biological level and characterize this connection in detail by employing high resolution microscopy.

Development of novel alternative methods

Together, these studies shall represent a first step for the development of novel alternative methods to animal experiments.

Current publications

1. C. Weidner, M. Steinfath, E. Wistorf, M. Oelgeschläger, M. R. Schneider, G. Schönfelder (2017). A protocol for using gene set enrichment analysis to identify the ideal animal model for translational research. Journal of Visualized Experiments, accepted.

2. C. Weidner, M. Steinfath, E. Opitz, M. Oelgeschläger, G. Schönfelder (2016). Defining the optimal animal model for translational research using gene set enrichment analysis. EMBO Molecular Medicine 8(8):831-8. doi: 10.15252/emmm.201506025.

3. M. Raasch,K. Rennert, T. Jahn, C. Gärtner, G. Schönfelder, O. Huber, A. E. Seiler, A. S. Mosig (2016). An integrative microfluidically supported in vitro model of an endothelial barrier combined with cortical spheroids simulates effects of neuroinflammation in neurocortex development. Biomicrofluidics 10(4):044102. doi: 10.1063/1.4955184.



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German Centre for the Protection of Laboratory Animals (Bf3R)

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