3D Host-pathogen infection models

Cellular in vitro models are of particular use in infection research to analyze host-pathogen interactions. We are developing flexible 3-dimensional infection models that not only include structural components of human skin but also immune cells and reporter systems for the activation of immune signaling pathways. These models are used to study innate immune responses to invading fungi and viruses and to identify ways to modulate such host responses.

In vitro infection models

In vitro models allow to analyze molecular processes in host-pathogen interactions. Epithelial models are particularly useful in infection research to study the interaction between pathogens and host surfaces. To test the virulence of different Candida strains, for example, we have developed in vitro infection models to replicate the infection of human pathogenic organisms on a human skin or gut equivalent.

more info on skin and intestine infection models


Immunocompetent models with cells of the immune system

In humans, it is the innate immune system that determines whether an infection occurs after the invasion of pathogens. The innate defense mechanisms against pathogens are often strongly dependent on different cell types and the 3-dimensional tissue structure.

At Fraunhofer IGB, we therefore develop 3D skin infection models that contain not only the epithelial cells but also structural components such as fibroblasts and collagen as well as immunologically relevant components such as various immune cell types. Such models are used to study mechanisms of host-pathogen interaction, in particular infection processes in fungi (Candida albicans) and viruses (herpes simplex virus, HSV-1) and the defense mechanisms against these pathogens are analyzed.


Identification of immunomodulatory substances  

In addition, these models will be increasingly used in the future for the identification and validation of immunomodulatory substances for the control of infections and immunological diseases. For this purpose, reporter systems for the activation of receptors of the innate immune system (PRRs) were introduced into different cell types of a 3D skin model. These 3D reporter skin models make it possible to measure the activation and inhibition of central signaling pathways of the innate immune system in the three-dimensional tissue context.

Reference projects

ImResFun – Identification of protective mechanisms of the skin using immunological 3D tissue models

Duration: October 2013 – September 2017

In infection research in vitro models are well suited for studying initial processes in the colonization of epithelial surfaces by pathogens. The aim of the network ImResFun is to find new means for fighting Candida infections.

Article in Fraunhofer IGB Annual Report 2015/16

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Targeted Drug Delivery – RNA-mediated treatment of HSV-1 infections

More than 90 percent of the world’s population is infected with Type 1 Herpes simplex (HSV-1). Until now, there is still no effective treatment for herpes infections available. HSV infections have been exclusively treated with antivirals so far, mainly nucleoside analogues. One aim is therefore to develop an alternative therapy approach for the treatment of HSV-1 infection.

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