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Animal Welfare Research Award: Liver on chip replaces animal testing
The animal protection research award of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) goes to Jena this year: Federal Minister of Agriculture Christian Schmidt awarded Dr. Alexander Mosig from Jena University Hospital and his Inspire research group for their research on alternative methods.
Millions of unnecessary animal experiments
According to EU statistics, over eleven million animals were used in research and development in 2011, the majority of them in tests. According to some experts, animal testing in medicine is completely unnecessary, but countless animals around the world still have to die to test drugs, chemicals, and cosmetics. It is therefore gratifying that many researchers are working on alternatives to animal testing. One of them is Dr. Alexander Mosig from the University Hospital Jena. The scientist has now been awarded the Animal Welfare Research Award.
Suitable alternatives to animal testing
The scientist PD Dr. Alexander Mosig from the University Hospital Jena has been awarded the Animal Protection Research Award by the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL).
The award recognizes the biochips developed by the researcher and his research group, which can be used, for example, to simulate blood vessels, the intestine and the liver.
Initial studies show that organ models based on these chips are suitable alternatives to animal testing. They can be used, for example, to research the consequences of a bacterial infection or new active ingredients for drugs.
Liver from tanks and tubes
Small liquid tanks are connected to the plastic slide, narrow cavities inside are connected with inflows and outflows - the appearance of the biochip is far from that of a human liver.
But in terms of function, the model comes very close to the organ. Because in it not only all relevant cell types of the liver are structurally correctly arranged, the cells also fulfill their metabolic and tissue functions - and that over several weeks.
The small tanks and hoses are the key, because they ensure the right flow conditions in the chip organ.
"With a microflow system, we can ensure realistic perfusion that only enables specific communication between cell types and mutual stabilization," said Alexander Mosig in a communication from the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena. "With the help of sensors, we can even regulate oxygen saturation in a targeted manner."
The tissue models of human organs, which the 41-year-old biochemist and his Inspire working group are developing at the Center for Sepsis and Sepsis Sequences at the University Hospital Jena, can be used to specifically investigate aspects of organ functions under laboratory conditions.
Until now, this was only possible in animal experiments. Mosig sees the organ chip clearly at an advantage: "We are working with human cells and tissue models here, so that the significance of the experiments is much greater than that of experiments with rodents."
Organ chip technology with potential
The Inspire team has already used the organ biochips in cooperation projects with doctors, chemists and pharmacologists, in basic research to investigate the causes of inflammation and infections, but also in the development of new therapy options.
For example, they developed the model of a liver whose function is impaired due to inflammation. The “liver on the chip” showed specific immune reactions and was also able to regenerate.
The organ chip technique also flowed into the development of a human cancer model, on which the mechanism of action of an anti-tumor substance was elucidated.
For the testing of nanotransporters as drug carriers, the scientists around Mosig simulated the blood-brain barrier on the chip.
You are working on a model of this barrier between the bloodstream and the central nervous system, which has important aspects of inflammatory nerve diseases and is to be used in the optimization of the drug transporters.
"We have already been able to use our organ chip systems several times instead of animal experiments, thereby making a contribution to reducing and avoiding animal experiments," said the award winner.
"Our group is working on organ models of the intestine, lungs, bones and kidneys in order to establish the technology as an alternative to animal testing for infection research, drug testing and, in the future, also for toxicological tests."
Animal Welfare Research Award
For this commitment, Alexander Mosig received this year's animal protection research award, which is endowed with 25,000 euros. This is the 36th time that the BMEL has recognized innovative, scientific work that can be used to reduce or replace animal experiments.
Federal Minister of Agriculture Christian Schmidt said at the award ceremony: "My goal is to limit animal testing to the absolute minimum and to ensure that experimental animals are given the best possible protection."
According to the BMEL, animal experiments may only be carried out under the current legal situation if they are essential for one of the purposes permitted under the Animal Welfare Act.
The experts believe that despite numerous successes in the development of alternative methods to animal testing, based on the current state of scientific knowledge, animal testing cannot yet be dispensed with.
This means that alternative methods of animal testing must be researched in order to completely replace animal testing or to reduce their number. (ad)