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3R-Young Investigator Award for Karen Hoffmann

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Charité 3R funds project to improve disease models from human lung tissue

For the implementation of her project idea "Pneumonia in vitro - Refinement of primary human lung models to study pulmonary infections", Dr. Karen Hoffmann, scientist of the research group led by Prof. Martin Witzenrath from the Department of Infectious Diseases and Respiratory Medicine, receives the Charité 3R Young Investigator Award. From a total of twelve submitted applications, the council of Spokespersons, together with two additional experts, selected Karen Hoffmann's research approach as the best project idea. The review process was anonymous. The decision was not easy for the reviewers - all submitted proposals were convincingly innovative and of high quality.

The aim of Karen Hoffmann's research approach is to develop animal free organotypic alveolar cultures - i.e. lung tissue consisting of the smallest branches of our airways, the so-called alveoli. In the future, the researcher wants to use these to study pulmonary bacterial infections. A key aspect in terms of the 3Rs is the cultivation of the complex primary in vitro models without the use of Matrigel. Matrigel consists of a complex mixture of biomolecules used as a growth medium in 3D cell culture and tissue engineering.

The disadvantage of Matrigel, however, is that it is produced  in mice by transplanting tumor cells and also contains the antibiotic gentamicin. The researcher is now aiming to establish two alternative models: a 3D organoid model based on alignate, a polysaccharide derived from brown algae, and a so-called air-liquid interface model. Both models will be compared with respect to their cellular composition and infected with the bacterium Pseudonomas.aeruginosa and a specific phage cocktail to assess their usability for bacterial infection studies and new therapeutic approaches. The aim is not only to improve the standardization of primary cell culture, but also to support the use of animal-free methods by replacing Matrigel.

The Young Investigator Award, endowed with approximately 15.000 euros, was offered for the first time this year by Charité 3R. The aim is to award young researchers for a project idea that strengthens the implementation of the 3Rs in everyday research. This may include approaches that improve translation to human (patho)physiology through an alternative human model system, promote refinement of animal experiments, or use in silico as well as high-risk approaches to impact the 3Rs. To all project ideas that were not selected, Charité 3R wishes that their implementation can be realized through other means.


Charité 3R

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