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Professor Geoff Pilkington answers your questions

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Professor Geoff Pilkington answers some of your questions about brain tumour research and why he’s passionate about finding a cure for brain tumours.Professor Geoff Pilkington

What motivates you?

I became passionate about doing something scientific that may help patients suffering from devastating diseases. Sadly, eight years into my brain tumour research career, my mother was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour in 1979. She survived for only 16 months. This period showed me the ‘other side of the counter’ and enabled me to empathise with patients and carers alike, as well as being a dedicated brain tumour researcher.

Why are you conducting animal free research?

Early in my career, live animal experiments were ‘the norm’; in vitro work was rare and scorned by many. However, I had major concerns about being able to replicate the precise biology of the human brain and its diseases in rats and mice.

I began growing cells from brain tumour patient biopsies and studying their biology using new cellular and molecular techniques. I believe that this investment in time has helped in bringing these studies to the forefront – achieving both the replacement of animals in science, as well as gaining a sounder representation of the diseases we seek to treat.

Do you encounter any barriers because you don’t use animals?

Yes, this is a major problem. In vitro work is often expensive and painstaking, but I feel that the cost will reduce with the more research that is carried out.

Petri dishIn vitro research takes place in a controlled environment, outside of a living organism (such as an animal or plant). In vitro (Latin for ‘in glass’) experiments are traditionally undertaken in test tubes, petri dishes or flasks. They usually involve isolated cells, tissues, or organs.

It is also very difficult to get our solely in vitro research findings published in top journals, as they regularly state that we need to ‘validate’ our in vitro findings in animals. In fact, we have been asked by several research groups to help them ‘validate’ their animal experiments with our in vitro studies!

Do you find that the replacement of animal use in biomedical research is becoming more accepted in the scientific community?

Yes actually, at last, I do. The level of sophistication of the in vitro systems now available to us has given the scientific sector the enthusiasm and impetus to concentrate on these non-animal approaches. I believe we are getting ever nearer to gaining acceptance of such technologies in pre-clinical testing.

Did you always want to be a scientist?

No. I really enjoyed biology at school and had a wonderfully eccentric teacher, who first instilled in me a fascination for the life sciences, but I didn’t really know what to do as a career. It was only when I got a job as a technician in a medical research laboratory that I knew I really wanted my own laboratory, so set my sights on gaining the qualifications necessary to achieve this goal.

What advice would you give someone who wants to go into animal free research?

Spend some time in my labs, to gain an experience of what it’s really like to work in a laboratory of non-animal medical research. We try to host as many A-level and undergraduate students as we can realistically support each year.

 

 

You can take action for animals, by uniting with us now!

Too many animals continue to suffer in laboratories rather than enjoying the comfort and security of a happy home. Our work is funded entirely by your generous support, so please make a donation today to help us free animals from laboratories for good.

 

Many brain tumour drugs tested on animals do not work in humans

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Did you know many drugs that appear to work when tested on tumours cruelly implanted in animals, frequently do not work in the clinic on human patients?

Imagine the waste of time and resources, the suffering needlessly inflicted on animals, and the devastating consequences for patients and their families.

Professor Geoff Pilkington and Dr Zaynah Maherally aim to speed up the time it takes for an effective drug to reach patients by replacing animal experiments with their more human-like research tool:

Geoff and Zaynah are engineering an animal free research model that better reflects the real situation within the brain when patients are treated – by incorporating real tumour and non-tumour, human brain cells.

“Our sophisticated blood-brain barrier model shows promise in fast-tracking new and repurposed drugs into the clinic, without using animal-derived cells or animals in laboratories.”

You can help Geoff and Zaynah replace animal experiments with their human relevant research tool by making a donation now.

Break-through Brain Tumour Research

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Thanks to the generosity of kind Animal Free Research UK supporters like you, brain tumour experts Professor Geoff Pilkington and Dr Zaynah Maherally are developing the first cutting-edge, animal free, 3D model of the blood-brain barrier.

Their research could find more effective ways of treating patients, including children, who suffer from brain tumours:

“Brain tumours are much more common than is perceived and research in this field is notoriously poorly funded. Many brain tumours carry a dreadful prognosis and we have not been able to substantially change the dismal outcome for these patients for 50 years.”

What is the blood-brain barrier?

Your brain is protected by a barrier that stops potentially harmful substances, such as bacteria and viruses, from entering and causing problems. This barrier is made from specially designed blood vessels and so it is known as the ‘blood-brain barrier’.

While we want our brains to block out most harmful substances, there are some that we might want to get into our brains – such as drugs to treat brain tumours. However, many drugs that may hold the potential to either cure brain tumours or slow down their progress can’t get into the brain because they are blocked by the blood-brain barrier.

Beating brain tumours with animal free research

Now, Geoff and Zaynah are using their all-human model to find better ways to get drugs across the blood-brain barrier, treat brain tumour patients and further understand the human brain.

“We have engineered the most sophisticated in vitro blood-brain barrier reported to date and it is comprised wholly of human cells and proteins, thus reflecting the biological features of the human brain far more accurately than other animal experiments and in vitro models.”

Petri dishIn vitro research takes place in a controlled environment, outside of a living organism (such as an animal or plant). In vitro (Latin for ‘in glass’) experiments are traditionally undertaken in test tubes, petri dishes or flasks. They usually involve isolated cells, tissues, or organs.

 

 

You can take action for animals, by uniting with us now!

Too many animals continue to suffer in laboratories rather than enjoying the comfort and security of a happy home. Our work is funded entirely by your generous support, so please make a donation today to help us free animals from laboratories for good.