PhD: Jana Pantzke


Each month we are going to be highlighting one of the PhD’s of the project so their work can be showcased. We continue with Jana Pantzke, PhD in Helmholtz. We are asking the PhD’s five questions and here is how Jana answered.

Good morning Jana, tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am a BSc in Chemistry, Free University of Berlin and MSc in Toxicology, University of Potsdam. Since July 2019 PhD at Helmholtz Centre Munich, Comprehensive Molecular Analytics in Aerosol Toxicology/Mutagenesis, Di Bucchianico Lab. I am specialized in in vitro alternative model development and genotoxicity research aiming to reduce animal experimentation by maintaining high physiological relevance of advanced test systems. I finished thesis on “Multicellular in vitro systems assessing primary and secondary genotoxicity in particle-driven pulmonary fibrosis” in June 2023 and I am now a Postdoc in Di Bucchianico Lab.

Could you explain your last paper or discovery?

I developed a multicellular in vitro system mimicking the alveolar lining in the lungs containing epithelial cells, macrophages (immune cells) and fibroblast, all of which are known to participate in the development of lung fibrosis. I tested the model response to multi-walled carbon nanotubes treatment, which is known to favor pro-fibrotic lesions, and compared it to less advanced systems with fewer cell types, but which are commonly used in lung toxicology research; the newly developed model takes cell-cell communication into consideration and takes into account the possible protective effect of immune cells resulting in lower cell death in contrast to the less advanced systems; nevertheless in the complex model we observed secondary DNA damage in fibroblast, which are not directly exposed to the particles, indicating that this response might be driven by messengers released from immune cells or epithelial cells, moreover this model clearly showed the induction of pro-fibrotic events, which were not detectable in the other models. It aim is to test different kind of materials such as air pollutants but also nanodevices as developed in BOW for their toxicological and pro-fibrotic potential, of special interest is whether such materials induce DNA damage, either by direct or indirect mechanisms, the model allows the separate investigation of epithelial cells and fibroblasts, which yields more mechanistical information. The model can also be used as diseased model, investigating how tested materials affect a lung already harboring fibrotic lesions.

Which is the advancement for science and technology that you are currently studying?

It allows for more realistic in vitro toxicity assessment, getting closer to physiological conditions in the human body, plus the possibility to get more mechanistical information about material-cell interactions and cell-cell communication. It could possibly lead to the reduction of animal experiments in early tiered toxicity screening, since more information can be obtained from advanced test system and it allows for high-throughput screening, more cost- and time-efficient compared to animal experiments, higher reproducibility.

Which would you say are the possible impacts on society?

In general, reliable in vitro models could lead to faster toxicity screening due to more precise data in early-phase screening, less failing drug candidates in clinical trials and could lead to faster approval and market launch. The amount of nanomaterials is rising, requires safety assessment according to legislation, in vitro faster than in vivo investigations, higher consumer safety. There is also no ethical justification needed for in vitro systems and higher acceptance in society.

Is there someone you want to acknowledge?

Thanks to my supervisor Sebastiano Di Bucchianico,who has always allowed me to go my own way and develop myself by sharing with me his passion for science and his forward thinking.

You can find Jana’s scientific publications at: