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Artificial skin from human cells: price for alternative methods to animal testing
A researcher from Berlin has contributed to saving thousands of laboratory animals death. For his work, he has now received, among other things, the Berlin Research Award.
Reduce animal testing Pharmacologist Prof. Günther Weindl (FU) received the Berlin Research Award 2013 in the Red City Hall last Friday, endowed with 15,000 euros, for his development of alternative methods to animal testing. He also received an extra prize of 5,000 euros from the Alliance for Animal Welfare Policy. Professor Weindl was recognized for his work, which can help save thousands of laboratory animals from death. Consumer Protection Senator Thomas Heilmann (CDU) said at the award ceremony: "We will never be able to completely abolish animal experiments, but Professor Weindl's work shows ways to reduce the number."
Skin residues from operations The 37-year-old Weindl, who works at the Institute for Pharmacy, Pharmacology and Toxicology at the Free University of Berlin, has been researching skin models for ten years now, for which he uses fingernail-sized pieces of skin. Hospitals are allowed to transfer skin residues from surgery to research with the consent of the patient. The FU researcher uses his assistants to reassemble this waste to create a model of the first and second skin layers that look like real skin. After a while, the merged cells automatically form the uppermost horny layer. For about 20 years it has been possible to create simple models of human skin.
Langerhans cells What is special about Weindl's preparations is the addition of the Langerhans cell, a type of cell that all people carry within themselves. This decides, for example, for bacteria that overcome the uppermost horny layer of human beings and penetrate the skin as to whether they are dangerous foreign bodies. In this case, they initiate the defense reaction by alerting the body. The model by the Berlin scientist comes very close to human skin and this makes test results for the tolerance of new cosmetics or medicinal products on this "immunocompetent skin model" particularly meaningful. "We want to replace unnecessary animal experiments," says Weindl.
Researcher sees need for animal testing Although he supports the recent EU ban on animal testing for the manufacture of cosmetic products, he is not a general opponent of animal testing. For example, he criticizes unnecessary animal testing due to inadequate research planning, but sees the need for it in the future in the development of pharmaceuticals in order to reduce risks for humans. In addition, the so-called animal experiment-free research would not do without animal active ingredients, because to create the nutrient fluid that Weindl also needs for his work, you would need fetal calf serum, which is obtained from the blood of calves. The use of the serum should be reduced, but Weindl currently sees himself "at the limit of what is possible."
Praise at the award ceremony Thanks to research at the FU in Berlin, scientists across Germany could do without thousands of animal experiments in the future. The award ceremony was also praised by Siegfried Throm from the Association of Research-Based Pharmaceutical Manufacturers: "This is an excellent project that will help replace animal testing." Alternative methods exist. "
Research without animal testing is possible Animal testing is still as widespread in medical research as it is controversial. For the animals, they mean “pain, suffering and permanent damage” (German Animal Welfare Act), science hopes to gain far-reaching knowledge for the treatment of patients. However, according to the Verein Ärzte gegen Tierversuche e.V., the results of animal experiments are not only morally and ethically reprehensible, they are also hardly reliably transferable to humans. For more than 30 years, the association has been committed to ethical, purely animal-free scientific research. The number of animal experiments continues to increase every year, which is not only associated with the suffering of millions of living things, but is also a sign of "misguided medicine and science", the animal rights activists said on the occasion of a joint action with other animal protection groups in the previous year. (ad)
Stephanie Hofschlaeger / pixelio.de