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Welcome to the Windfelder lab - the junior research group led by Dr. Anton Windfelder at the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology and the Justus-Liebig-University of Gießen, Germany.
My lab is interested in functional and multimodal imaging of insects as alternative animal models for biomedical research. We are exploiting medical imaging methods such as computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, positron emission tomography, or photoacoustic imaging to study physiological and immunological processes in insects.

über mich.
This is a portrait of Anton Windfelder

Our Mission: Establishing Insects as a replacement for mammalian models in biomedical research

© Pia Windfelder

Insect larvae such as tobacco hornworm (Manduca sexta) can accelerate and economize preclinical research by complementing classic laboratory animals such as rats and mice.

 

Small mammals like mice or rats are indispensable for preclinical research. However, growing ethical concerns led to the incorporation of the 3R principle (replacement, reduction, and refinement) into animal experiments legislation and research funding. In the future, the number of vertebrate laboratory animals should be reduced, and non-vertebrate alternatives should be used where possible. Furthermore, the incorporation of the 3R principle will also economize preclinical research since insect husbandry is much cheaper than the traditional housing of laboratory mammals.

 

In that context, insect larvae like Manduca can serve as an alternative in vivo animal model. Particularly, with the high degree of evolutionary conservation in the innate immunity of the gut and similarities in the enteric epithelial structure, M. sexta can serve as a model for human gut inflammation.

We employed larvae of the tobacco hornworm M. sexta, which are big enough for macroscopic imaging techniques, such as computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and positron emission tomography (PET) as a high-throughput platform to study the innate immunity of the gut and host-pathogen interactions.

 

The developed platform represents an ethically acceptable, resource-saving, large-scale, and 3R-compatible screening tool for various life science disciplines, including the identification of new effectors and inhibitors in gut inflammation, the assessment of pesticides or other environmental factors, the assessment and evaluation of new antibiotic therapies, the analysis of host-pathogen interactions, and the identification of new contrast agents or tracers in radiology. Since 75% of the known human disease-causing genes have homologs in insects, this approach will also be helpful in testing preclinical hypotheses in inflammatory bowel disease.

What we do:

Here is a summary of the main methods, concepts, and models we work with:

© Anton Windfelder

Research Highlights

Windfelder AG, Müller FH, Mc Larney B, Hentschel M, Böhringer AC, Von Bredow CR, Leinberger FH, Kampschulte M, Maier L, von Bredow YM, Flocke V. High-throughput screening of caterpillars as a platform to study host–microbe interactions and enteric immunity. Nature communications. 2022 Nov 24;13(1):7216. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-022-34865-7


•    In the top 5% of all research outputs scored by Altmetric
•    High Attention Score compared to outputs of the same age (98th percentile)
•    High Attention Score compared to outputs of the same age and source (93rd percentile)

 

Online attention:
Citations:

Koshkina O, Rheinberger T, Flocke V, Windfelder A, Bouvain P, Hamelmann NM, Paulusse JM, Gojzewski H, Flögel U, Wurm FR. Biodegradable polyphosphoester micelles act as both background-free 31P magnetic resonance imaging agents and drug nanocarriers. Nature Communications. 2023 Jul 19;14(1):4351. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-023-40089-0 •In the top 25% of all research outputs scored by Altmetric •High Attention Score compared to outputs of the same age (92nd percentile) •Good Attention Score compared to outputs of the same age and source (70th percentile)

Windfelder AG, Steinbart J, Flögel U, Scherberich J, Kampschulte M, Krombach GA, Vilcinskas A. A quantitative micro-tomographic gut atlas of the lepidopteran model insect Manduca sexta. iScience. 2023 Jun 16;26(6). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.isci.2023.106801 •In the top 5% of all research outputs scored by Altmetric •High Attention Score compared to outputs of the same age (95th percentile) •High Attention Score compared to outputs of the same age and source (93rd percentile)

projekte.
Bildschirmfoto 2023-09-08 um 15.53_edited.jpg
© Anton Windfelder