With its comparatively high density of universities and university hospitals (including four universities of excellence) and its comparatively high density of pharmaceutical and chemical industry, Baden-Württemberg is one of the most important biomedical research locations in the Federal Republic of Germany. Consequently, the third largest state in Germany bears a special responsibility with regard to the protection of laboratory animals.
The 3R-Netzwork Baden-Württemberg
Baden-Württemberg’s Special Responsibility in the Protection of Laboratory Animals
Promotion of 3R-Activities in Baden-Württemberg
Since the beginning of 2020, the Ministry of Science, Research and the Arts (MWK) Baden-Württemberg has been pursuing the goal of establishing a unique nationwide 3R-Network by funding the initiative “Promotion of Activities for the Replacement, Reduction and Refinement – 3R of Animal Experiments.“ All major biomedical sites in Baden-Württemberg are involved in order to advance scientific research and animal welfare in equal measure and thus actively and sustainably reduce the number of animal experiments in research and education.
The 3R-Network Baden Württemberg – Strong Partners, Strong Projects
The basic framework of the network is formed by five 3R-Centers, each of which acts as a kind of crystallization core for the further expansion of the network. The work of the centers is complemented by Baden-Württemberg researchers who are pursuing three research projects as well as two educational projects in order to structurally anchor replacement- and supplementary methods and the 3R-Principle.
In order to ensure that animal welfare is continuously addressed in research, education and training, politics as well as by the general public, the biomedical expertise of researchers in the state is bundled in the 3R-Network Baden-Württemberg and the visibility of the activities is increased for example through public relations work or special course offerings for education and training.
Projects within the 3R-Network Baden-Württemberg
3R-Center Tübingen for In vitro Models and Alternatives to Animal Testing
The 3R-Center Tübingen, founded between the University of Tübingen and the NMI in Reutlingen, is intended as a state-wide cross-sectional center to provide basic researchers with low-threshold access to novel alternative methods. With a focus on “Replacement“, work is being done on setting up a technology platform comprising in vitro models of varying complexity (both commercially available systems and already established prototypes developed in-house or by Baden-Württemberg network partners). In addition to establishing a comprehensive digital information and communication platform for various target and interest groups, the 3R-Center Tübingen is also committed to establish and conduct targeted training workshops for scientists, information events and webinars. Through the active participation in academic teaching, the targeted and sustainable application and development of new technologies is promoted medium and long term.
Jointly supported by the University of Heidelberg and the Central Institute of Mental Health Mannheim, the 3R-Center Rhine-Neckar complements with its focus on “Refinement” and “Reduction” the work of the 3R-Center Tübingen and pursues four main aspects: establishment of a central database for animal material, activities in continuing education and teaching as well as open access, assistance in designing new experiments and supervision of internal 3R-research activities.
CAAT-Europe (Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing Europe)
The focus of the 3R-Project „NAM-ACCEPT – NAM-ACCEPT – Research and harmonization activities to promote acceptance of advanced animal-free new approach methods (NAM) and data therefrom in different stakeholder communities“ of the transatlantic joint venture CAAT-Europe (Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing in Europe) between the University of Konstanz and the Johns-Hopkins-University in Baltimore, Maryland, USA is on improved in vitro-to-in vivo transferability which is particularly relevant in terms of drug transport (biokinetics) and its intended and unintended effects in therapy. In addition, further international standardization and harmonization of new methods and data processing will be pursued.
Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Intestinal Health
The Interdisciplinary Center for Research on Intestinal Health‘s 3R-Project at the University of Heidelberg is dedicated to the study of intestinal diseases. The focus is on the personalized analysis of functional disorders of the intestinal nervous system using patient data and individual in vitro models. The long-term goal here is to generate patient-specific 3D organoids, consisting of intestinal epithelium, immune and neuronal cells which can mimic individual organ functions, thereby contributing to a better understanding and treatment of intestinal diseases.
3R-US: Developing ex vivo, de novo and in silico Approaches for Drug Screening in Cancer Research
The 3R-US Network, which is jointly supported by the University of Stuttgart and the Robert-Bosch-Hospital/Institute of Clinical Pharmacology, pursues the goal of setting new accents for the integration of engineering science into biomedical research in the focus areas of molecular diagnostics, biomaterials and simulation. This involves building a vascularized ex vivo technology platform that reflects the complexity and heterogeneity of a human tumor (breast cancer and ovarian) to allow testing of novel targeted therapeutics and combination therapies. Tumor models are to be constructed from biomaterials and cells using 3D printing processes in a life-like manner as a replacement system for animal experiments. In the long term, the data obtained ex vivo will provide a basis for the development of in silico tumor models for the simulation and prediction of therapeutic effects.
Overcoming Translational Obstacles - Improving Evidence and Predictive Value in Experminental Research
In the research project “Overcoming Translational Barriers – Improving Evidence and Predictive Value in Experimental Research” at the University of Freiburg, a systematic, meta-analytical approach to detect and correct currently prevailing “publication bias” is being developed to improve the translation of preclinical spinal cord injury studies into application without additional animal testing.
Refinement in Complex Stressful Experiments on Mice
Characterization and Advancement of 3D Heterotypic Head and Neck Squamous Cell Cancer Spheroids to Replace , Reduce and Refine Animal Experiments in the Fields of Tumor Biology and Drug Testing
In the research project “Characterization and Advancement of 3D Heterotypic Spheroids from Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinomas” at the University of Heidelberg, 3D spheroids reflecting tumor geometry are optimized and further developed in order to establish individualized therapies for squamous cell carcinomas. This involves the use of humanized culture conditions in order to replace fetal calf serum.
The project learning lab “BioMED-Lab” at Reutlingen University is intended for students in the undergraduate course Biomedical Sciences. In the course of this project, the BioMED-Lab will be extended by 3D bioprinting methods and a video repository, the practical knowledge transfer as well as the reflection ability of ethical and legal aspects of animal experiments. This should lead to more in-depth training in the 3Rs for prospective graduates.
6R courses (Reduction, Refinement, Replacement, Robustness, Registration, Reporting) to improve the quality of animal studies in biomedical research
The aim of the educational project at the University of Ulm is to establish and conduct recognized, certified “6R courses” to improve the quality of animal experimental studies in biomedical research. In doing so, the courses will cover the entire animal welfare area in animal experimentation, with two main areas of focus: 1) identifying and reducing exposures in animal studies and 2) contemporary quality management in animal experimentation to increase the reproducibility of animal experiments and the translational rate. The courses are intended for scientists, animal welfare officers, animal house managers and authority representatives.
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