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Research funding on the topic of "3R networks"

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Funding objective

This funding line explicitly supports collaborative projects with at least three partners that show strong innovation potential in the 3Rs, enable effective improvements in animal welfare or allow a reduction in the number of laboratory animals through the development of new methods. The projects are funded for a period of two years with the option of an extension for a further year with a volume of up to 250.000 euros per collaborative per year.

Currently funded research projects

Establishment of a pipeline for obtaining and analysing human tissue samples for modelling human diseases.

A structured pipeline for the collection, processing, distribution and analysis of fresh human tissue samples at the Charité clinics is to be created. The tissue itself, as well as cells or extracellular matrix isolated from it, represents the starting material for the development of alternative, experimental methods and models.

In this project, the scientists want to establish a platform that will enable all researchers working at Charité to access human tissues for research purposes.

Many tissue samples that are obtained daily in interventional and surgical procedures and are not needed for diagnostic purposes are disposed of as clinical waste. "However, for scientific questions, this tissue is very valuable. In certain cases, it can serve as an alternative to animal experiments and even provide higher-quality results for specific questions," says project leader Prof. Dr. Birgit Sawitzki from the Institute of Medical Immunology.

Primary human tissue or cells isolated from it or extracellular matrix obtained from it represents the starting material for ex vivo models on which fundamental biological mechanisms and new therapy concepts can be evaluated. The aim of the project is to establish infrastructures to relieve the clinics collecting the samples of personnel, to process the samples quickly and to carry out analysis and quality control.

In addition to the expansion of human cell and tissue culture procedures, a standardised protocol for imaging mass cytometry is to be established, which will enable a detailed comparative analysis of cell distribution in different tissues.


Human 3D nephron as a replacement for animal models in kidney examinations.

Human primary urine cells from healthy volunteers and patients with genetic kidney diseases are first reprogrammed into induced stem cells (hiPSC) (1). These are then differentiated into endothelial cells for vascularisation and into pathologically relevant renal cells (2). The subsequent generation of the various pathologically relevant kidney compartments is done using 3D bio-printing technology, which allows the cells to be placed with physiological precision (3). (Figure: Bella Roßbach)

The project "Human 3D nephron to replace animal models for kidney examinations" focuses on research on kidney diseases using kidney tissue generated by 3D printing technology. Kidney failure is becoming a global burden with increasing morbidity and mortality rates. In addition to acute kidney failure, which can be triggered by surgical procedures, sepsis and ischaemia, other triggers can also lead to permanent damage to the kidneys, including ultimate renal failure.

Due to the lack of functional and physiologically relevant in vitro systems, primarily animal models are used for research on the emergence and development of kidney diseases or drug-induced nephrotoxicity.

"In our project, we want to use stem cell and 3D bio-printing technology to generate different functional units of the kidney," explains project leader Dr. Andreas Kurtz from the BIH Centre for Regenerative Therapies. "This method additionally enables vascularisation and perfusion of the kidney compartments." Functional and pathological tests are then carried out and the results obtained are compared with in vivo data from various working groups of the Collaborative Research Centre Nephroprotection (SFB 1365).


Replacing laboratory animals with stem cell-based disease models for the study of developmental disorders in children.

Use of the stem cell model as a "disease in the culture dish" for high-throughput testing of drugs against epilepsy (bottom). In comparison, the classical testing in the mouse model (top).(Figure: M. Schülke)

In this project, the scientists led by Prof. Dr. Markus Schülke, Department of Paediatrics with a focus on neurology, want to use stem cells from patients to grow tissue that reproduces the specific characteristics of the disease under investigation.

The scientists focus on developmental disorders in children. These are often caused by genetic defects and in many cases also damage the nervous system. Epilepsy, paralysis or mental retardation can be the result. "Gene-modified animal models, so-called knockout mice, are usually used to research these diseases," says Prof. Schülke. "In our project, we would like to use adult stem cells from diseased individuals instead and convert them into specific tissue cells, for example nerve cells that are affected by the disease," he adds.

Such cell assemblies can then be used to investigate the development of the disease, but also to test new active substances - for example, by recording the pathological discharges of the nerve cells of an epileptic in the Petri dish and trying to dampen them with drugs. The aim is to bring therapies and drugs into clinical testing more quickly in this way, since they have already been developed on human cells. The development time of new active substances could thus be considerably shortened.