Schnichels Lab

Neuroprotection & Drug Delivery

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Alternatives to animal experiments

Currently, most preclinical experiments are performed on mice, rats and rabbits, which are treated with various substances and euthanized at the end of the experiment. Although there are organ culture procedures for rodent eyes, animals need to be sacrificed to obtain retinas. In order to reduce the amount of laboratory animals reliable ex-vivo and in-vitro models are needed. To obtain statistically relevant results for preclinical analysis of pathomechanisms and possible treatments the models need to be highly reproducible in large numbers and easily standardized.

Organ cultures of porcine retinas, which can be obtained from animals euthanized for the food industry, are excellent alternatives. The pig eye is morphologically and physiologically more similar to the human eye than the rodent eye and in organ culture, the complex structure of the retina is preserved. Currently, we are validating several retinal degeneration models based on porcine retina to test neuroprotective treatment options.

Furthermore, we are establishing long-term cultures of bovine retinae also acquired from abattoirs. The isolated retina is a sophisticated tool for preclinical research. Through analyzing the electrophysiological response under cultivation with different media the optimal cultivation conditions are determined and the survival time of the cultures can be prolonged. This allows for long-term ex-vivo studies to analyze the effect of different substances on the electrophysiological response. The ex-vivo model is than further developed into a damage model by applying glutamate or hypoxia and can be used for tests in preclinical therapy development for retinal diseases.


  • Research funding for alternatives to animal testing (set-Stiftung)
  • Research funding for alternatives to animal testing (Federal Institute for Risk Assessment)   
  • Research funding for alternatives to animal testing (Ministry of Rural Affairs, Food and Consumer Protection Baden-Wuerttemberg)

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