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Department of Molecular Mechanisms of Disease

Musculoskeletal Research Unit (MSRU)

The MSRU provides veterinary expertise and specializes in developing and performing animal models (sheep, goat, rabbit, pig, minipig, rat, mouse), which are specifically designed to answer defined research questions.  The MSRU has extensive expertise in musculoskeletal applications such as bone, cartilage, tendon, spine repair and regeneration. The MSRU also has expertise in repair and regeneration applications in the cardiovascular, aneurysm, wound healing and other soft tissue fields. The MSRU offers biocompatibility assessments in compliance with Good Laboratory Practices (GLP) under ISO10993 guidelines.

The MSRU has extensive expertise in histological processing (non-decalcified, decalcified and cryosectioning), immunohistochemistry and histopathological analyses, particularly with regards to biocompatibility, the interaction of novel biomaterials to their biological surroundings and the qualitative and quantitative assessment of regeneration and repair.

The team therefore brings together the necessary veterinary and scientific expertise to design and implement in vivo animal studies in a standardized, reliable and reproducible way that complies with laws of animal protection and ethics. The MSRU has successfully performed GLP studies, which have facilitated clinical translation and implant registration processes (e.g. FDA 510k pathway).

The MSRU is also involved in teaching activities including Federation for Laboratory Animal Science Associations (FELASA) courses and the supervision of doctoral theses performed at the MSRU. Those interested in performing a doctoral thesis at the MSRU may contact

GLP accreditation: The MSRU facility is accredited by Swissmedic to conduct studies in compliance with the principles of Good Laboratory Practice. The accredited areas of expertise are toxicity studies (category 2) and biocompatibility and efficacy with medical devices and pharmaceuticals (category 9).

GLP Statement 2022 (PDF, 310 KB)


Leadership Consortium:

Dr. med. vet. Katja Nuss, Dr. med. vet. Karina Klein PhD and Dr. Salim Darwiche PhD form the Leadership Consortium of the MSRU as of January 2020, following the retirement of Prof. Dr. med. vet. Dipl. ECVS Brigitte von Rechenberg, who is the MSRU founder, the former Dean of the Vetsuisse Faculty and an experienced and well-established surgeon in experimental animal research. The MSRU maintains a strong connection to its network of experts, including Prof. von Rechenberg.

Technical Expertise:

  • Develop and perform animal models in sheep, goat, rabbit, pig, minipig, rat and mouse test systems
  • Customized and agile study design in compliance with the 3R principles (Reduce, Refine, Replace), experimental animal permission submission
  • State of the art anesthesia and analgesia, supervised by board certified anesthesiologist Dr. Peter Kronen, Dipl. ECVAA
  • Extensive expertise in musculoskeletal research (bone, cartilage, tendon, spine & disc repair and regeneration)
  • Soft tissue research (cardiovascular, aneurysm, wound healing)

Histology laboratory:

  • Decalcified, paraffin-embedded histology (various stainings, immunohistochemistry)
  • Non decalcified, plastic-embedded histology (various stainings, ground and thin sections)
  • Cryosections 
  • Semi-quantitative and quantitative (histomorphometric) evaluation
  • Fluorescent tracking of intravital calcium deposition (e.g. bone healing, metaplastic calcification)
  • Collaboration with the Laboratory for Animal Pathology (LAMP) for specialized services (e.g. laboratory/experimental animal morphology and pathology, transmission electron microscopy, digital scanning, laser microdissection)

Diagnostic imaging and Biomechanics:

  • Digital radiographs and microradiographs
  • CT, MRI, Ultrasound, Fluoroscopy, Biplane neurovascular X-Ray System in collaboration with the Diagnostic Imaging Research Unit (DIRU
  • MicroCT with various collaboration partners
  • Biomechanics testing in collaboration with Prof. Stephen Ferguson (ETH Zürich)