Hot Seat: Dr. Daniela Zdzieblo, Dr. Christian Lotz | Fraunhofer ISC TLZ-RT

Last updated on: 28 May, 2024

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Alternatives to animal testing, model systems, biomaterials and “artificial” meat. Dr. Daniela Zdzieblo and Dr. Christian Lotz will be on hand to answer our questions on all of these topics. The two are group leaders at the Fraunhofer ISC TLZ-RT and are researching exciting sustainable topics.

The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC in Würzburg is a long-standing member of the Chemistry Cluster. What is the Fraunhofer Translational Center for Regenerative Therapies TLZ-RT of the ISC working on?

The Fraunhofer Translational Center for Regenerative Therapies TLZ-RT of the Fraunhofer ISC develops cell-based tissue models and test systems, scalable production processes and novel biomaterials.
The aim of our work is to establish alternatives to animal testing as an accepted standard in the population, research and industry, as well as the rapid implementation and combination of results from current materials research and tissue engineering for regenerative medicine in preclinical and clinical applications. In close cooperation with partners from medical technology, biotechnology and the pharmaceutical industry, we conduct research on behalf of companies as well as for clinics, diagnostic laboratories and other research institutions.

Biomaterials, bioreactor technology and in-vitro test systems are among the institute’s areas of work. Where do you see points of contact with chemical and materials companies that are more focused on material use and specific potential applications for your expertise in new sectors?

In biomaterials, synthetic and biological biomaterials such as particles and coatings are developed for or in cooperation with materials companies, as well as their analysis and improvement of properties.
In bioreactor technology, production processes are automated for standardized and reproducible production, such as for the automated synthesis of nanoparticles in the BMBF-funded APRONA project. Automation technology was also used in the EU projects BigMap and ReUse for the production and recycling of battery materials.
The testing of products and substances and their effects on the human organism is one of the central activities of the in vitro test systems. Here we support companies from a wide range of industries in the safe development/evaluation of new chemicals and substances and their effects. The increasing relevance of these new test methods is reflected, among other things, in their successive implementation in the OECD guidelines for testing chemicals, where they are replacing animal-based methods.

How will the field of bioprinting and biomaterials develop in the future? Will the hyped cultured meat really be available to buy in the supermarket one day?

Bioprinting and the field of biomaterials have the potential to fundamentally transform both the medical landscape and the food industry. Experts are predicting rapid development in these areas, particularly with regard to applications such as the cultured meat you mentioned.
Bioprinting, the technology of 3D printing of biological materials, is constantly evolving and is becoming increasingly precise and cost-efficient. These advances are laying the foundations for a future that will allow the printing of complex tissues and organs – at least in part – that could be used for medical tests and transplants. In parallel, biomaterials used in these processes are becoming increasingly versatile and sustainable, expanding their areas of application.
One particularly exciting advance in the field of biomaterials is the development of cultured meat. This innovation, in which meat is grown directly from cell cultures, promises to be a more environmentally friendly and ethical alternative to conventional livestock farming. The question of whether cultured meat will really be available in supermarkets one day is a matter of concern for many consumers and experts. It is also important to consider how customers will accept it.
Current trends and investments indicate that cultured meat could become a commercial reality in the coming years. Several start-ups and established companies in the food industry have already made significant progress and launched their first products on a small scale. The challenge now is to scale up production and reduce costs to make this innovative product accessible to the wider market.
In summary, the field of bioprinting and biomaterials has a promising future, both in medicine and in the food industry. With advancing technology and growing interest, products like Cultured Meat could soon be part of our everyday lives.

Networking between the TLZ-RT and the University of Bayreuth through the Chemistry Cluster is taking a promising course. In a collaboration with Prof. Laforsch’s working group, the effects of microplastics on humans are to be investigated in your in vitro tissue models for different human organs. What exactly is the aim of the joint research?

The aim of our collaboration is to investigate the potential health risks of microplastics for humans. In particular, modern, animal-free research methods are used, which can reveal specific effects of microplastics on human health.
The research focuses on questions such as the analysis of cellular damage or the reactions of the immune system that could be triggered by the ingestion of microplastics. By using advanced in-vitro techniques, the aim is to gain an in-depth understanding of these interactions without having to resort to animal testing.
This innovative approach makes it possible to study the direct effects of microplastics on human cells while maintaining ethical standards. The results of this research are crucial in order to better assess health risks and develop preventive measures where necessary.
The findings of this collaboration will not only help to raise public awareness of the problem of microplastics, but will also provide important data that could point the way for future environmental and health policy decisions.

What services can you offer companies from other sectors?

We offer our clients specialized contract research services. We focus on the development of cell-based alternatives to animal testing, which not only offer ethical advantages, but can also provide more accurate and human-relevant data.
Our cell-based models and test methods play a crucial role in efficacy testing, bioavailability studies and risk assessment. By using these advanced technologies, we can effectively assess the safety of products or the efficacy of new therapeutics, providing our clients with a modern pathway to safer and faster time to market. With our contract research offering, we are committed to a future where biomedical research is both ethically responsible and scientifically advanced. Find out today how we can support your next project.

On June 5-7, the WI3R Symposium will take place in Würzburg. The Fraunhofer ISC TLZ-RT will be the host. Registration is still possible until May 30.

📅 5.-7.06.2024

🚩 Rudolf Virchow Center, Josef-Schneider-Str. 2 Haus D15, 97080 Würzburg

Dr. Daniela Zdzieblo studied Molecular Biosciences at the University of Heidelberg. In 2015, she completed her doctorate in stem cell biology at the University of Würzburg. From 2015 to 2019, she worked as a postdoctoral researcher in the field of pancreatic tissue engineering. From 2019 to 2022, she held a group leader position at the Fraunhofer TLZ-RT and the Chair of Tissue Engineering & Regenerative Medicine (University Hospital Würzburg), focusing on the establishment of three-dimensional (3D) gastrointestinal tissue models and bioactive materials for human iPS cell technology. Since 2023, she has headed the “In vitro Test Systems” department at TLZ-RT together with Dr. Christian Lotz.

Dr. Christian Lotz studied biomedicine at the University of Würzburg. In 2018, he received his doctorate in the field of ocular tissue engineering at the graduate school of the University of Würzburg. From 2018 to 2020 he worked as a project manager in the field of skin and eye tissue engineering at the Fraunhofer Translational Center for Regenerative Therapies of the Fraunhofer ISC. From 2020 to 2022, he held a group leader position at the Fraunhofer TLZ-RT and the Chair of Tissue Engineering & Regenerative Medicine (University Hospital Würzburg), focusing on the establishment of three-dimensional (3D) ocular tissue models and test method development for risk assessment. Since 2023, he has headed the “In vitro Test Systems” department at TLZ-RT together with Dr. Daniela Zdzieblo.