Cell Models & Toxicology

The research focus of the "Cell Models & Toxicology" working group is on innovative, advanced cell-based in vitro models for the toxicological assessment of chemicals and new materials as well as for pharmaceutical research.

In vitro and ex vivo cell culture models based on cell lines or stem cells established in the working group are available for specific investigations and can be individually adapted depending on the research question. In vitro and ex vivo models of air-liquid interfaces (e.g. lung barrier) and liquid-liquid interfaces (e.g. intestinal barrier, blood-brain barrier) are used for studies of the transport and interaction of chemicals (e.g., PFAS, bisphenol A alternatives, mold toxins) or new materials, including nanomaterials, with the biological barrier. Tissue models, such as the liver, are available for studies of organ-specific effects and are adapted to individual questions. Kinetic studies of cellular uptake and accumulation as well as subcellular distribution of the substances to be tested can be carried out. A large number of the models can be combined with fluidic systems. Further in-vitro models can be set up if required.

There is currently a GLP certification in test category 9 "Other tests: Biological and microbiological safety tests on medical devices, drugs and cell therapeutics", into which these in vitro models can be incorporated.

In addition to the development of new in vitro and ex vivo test systems, the working group is involved in the construction and evaluation of miniaturized cultivation units and non-invasive analysis methods for the investigation of material-cell interactions down to the single cell level. To this end, the working group develops cell-based biosensors and organ-on-chip systems and deals with the miniaturization of sensory and fluidic systems based on silicon, glass or plastic. One focus is on the realization of microfluidic systems for the handling of biological cells, such as cell transport or cell separation. In addition to conventional methods of microsystems technology (lithography, thin-film technology, etching processes, replication processes), printing processes are increasingly being used for the functionalization of plastic films. These include the use of protein inks, graph inks and other electrically conductive inks. Various flatbed and roll-to-roll printing processes are available for functional printing (screen printing, inkjet printing and flexographic printing).

In addition to the question of the human toxicological effects of new materials, chemicals and synthetic nanomaterials and the development of improved alternative test methods, also within the framework of the European chemicals regulation REACH, suitable analytical methods for toxicological safety assessment are established and optimized in the working group.

From feasibility studies, toxicological screenings and the development of concepts for preclinical studies to the development and standardization of alternatives to animal testing according to the 3R concept ("Replace", "Reduce" and "Refine"), the working group offers all stages of research and development work.


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