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Barbara Rothen-Rutishauser
BioNanomaterials group, Adolphe Merkle Institute, University of Fribourg

OpenTox Euro 2019 talk: Predictive 3D epithelial tissue models – opportunities and limitations towards regulatory approval

The human body can be exposed to nanomaterials through a variety of different routes. As nanomaterials get in contact with the skin, the gastrointestinal tract, and the respiratory tract, these biological compartments are acting as barriers to the passage of nano-sized materials into the organism. These structural and functional barriers are provided by the epithelia serving as an interface between biological compartments. In order to initiate the reduction, refinement and replacement of time consuming, expensive and stressful (to the animals) in vivo experimental approaches, many in vitro (human) epithelial cell culture models have been developed during the last decades. Such models are described to simulate the human lung, skin as well as intestine epithelial tissue barrier and the choice of the model and the mode of nanomaterial exposure depends on the relevant scenario to be studied. Simple mono-cultures as well as highly sophisticated 3D models, involving different cell types which represent a more realistic physiological situation, are described.

In this presentation an overview about various models will be given including an insight into ongoing research projects in the group to study the hazard of aerosolized nanomaterials such as e.g. carbon nanotubes with lung tissue, the interaction of micro- and nanoplastic particles with a novel intestine model and finally the effect of ambient air particles on skin properties using a reconstructed epidermal model. In addition, the processes and interactions of the various stakeholders of the standardization, validation, and approval procedure for such alternative test methods will be discussed from a researcher perspective. 

This work is supported by the Adolphe Merkle Foundation and two H2020 European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programs: “CITYCARE” under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 765602 ( and “PATROLS” under grant agreement No 760813 (