Joy Girgis at the University of Hertfordshire will use human cell culture to develop novel testing methods in lung disease studies to replace rodent studies.

SUPERVISOR: Dr Ewelina Hoffman - University of Hertfordshire

STUDENT: Miss Joy Girgis

Lung diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are an increasing global health burden affecting hundreds of millions of people worldwide. The development of new inhaled medicines for the treatment of airway disease is being held back by the lack of understanding of how the airways respond to new therapies. Alveolar macrophages with foamy appearance are often observed in the lungs of rats when dosed with new inhaled candidate drugs. This stops their progression in drug discovery on the grounds of safety.

The lack of relevant tools and mechanistic understanding of macrophage stimulation prevents current preclinical studies from determining whether the immune responses in the lungs are normal or adverse. The aim of current research is to develop a non-animal in vitro cell co-culture model alongside with the high content functionality assay to better understand the interactions between alveolar cells, which may result in better screening of new inhaled drugs, appearance of new drugs to market and overall better treatment of airway diseases in people.

Pre-clinical safety testing of new medicines is assessed mainly in vivo using rodent models. A single biology efficacy study uses approximately 70 animals. The study may be repeated three times, requiring 210 animals. These studies are not only time- and cost-consuming, but also distressing and painful to animals.

This project will reduce number of animals used in pre-clinical safety testing by establishing the cell co-culture model, followed by high content multi-parameter in vitro screen. These novel tools developed within the project will allow for early identification of biologically active / non-active compounds, resulting in better prediction of compound safety later in drug development.