VitroInfect – Establishment of an in vitro biofilm platform model for tissue infections

Prof. Dr. Maike Windbergs,
Goethe University,


Animal models are still widely used to investigate bacterial tissue infections. The development of a robust and universally applicable in vitro model of bacterial biofilms may provide a valid alternative to animal testing.

Despite of high hygiene standards and due to a constant increase of resistant pathogens and the absence of effective antibiotics, bacterial tissue infections pose a serious threat. Therefore, predictive infection models are urgently needed for elucidation of basic scientific questions.

As there are no valid human-based in vitro alternatives allowing the investigation of a manifest bacterial infection including biofilm formation, animal models still play a central role in the research of infections. Apart from the insufficient transferability to human systems, it is particularly stressful and painful for the animals.

First human-based infection models exist, for which a bacterial suspension is directly added to a pre-cultured three-dimensional tissue model in a petri dish. However, such models are limited to the analysis of the initial infection state and do not represent a manifest biofilm.

In this project, an in vitro platform model of bacterial tissue infections will be generated by separately culturing the healthy tissue model and the biofilm model until they are fully matured. Initially, a bacterial biofilm based on clinically relevant pathogens (e.g. Staphylococcus aureus) will be grown. To realize the subsequent transfer of the biofilm to the tissue model, an electrospun matrix is used.

Afterwards, 3D models of the human skin will be generated. Finally, both models will be combined and co-cultured to get a fully matured biofilm on a minimally damaged tissue for the indicated analysis interval (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1:
Schematic illustration of the planed in vitro biofilm platform model for the standardized and controlled induction of a manifest tissue infection with biofilm.

Based on the same procedure, polymicrobial biofilm-models will be cultured and transferred to other tissue cultures for demonstration of the universal applicability of the established model.

For the first time, the model offers the opportunity to study pathological mechanisms of a manifest bacterial infection in vitro, thereby closely reflecting the in vivo situation in patients. The hereby acquired findings and the understanding of the pathomechanisms will additionally provide new options for the development of therapeutics against bacterial infections.


Research group Prof. Dr. Maike Windbergs “Drug Delivery and 3R-Models”
Goethe University Frankfurt
Institute for Pharmaceutical Technology and Buchmann Institute for Molecular Life Sciences
Max-von-Laue-Str. 15, 60438 Frankfurt am Main


05/2020 - 04/2022