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Dr Driton Vllasaliu – Developing an animal-free gut model to study gastrointestinal diseases

Dr Driton Vllasaliu - Animal Free Research UK Dr Driton Vllasaliu

Kings College London

Animals to be replaced: mice and rats


Human Intestinal epithelial organoids

Considerable progress has been made in developing organoids, simplified mini-versions of an organ, grown in the lab. They’re useful for understanding how cells behave, identifying changes that lead to disease and for testing drugs and new treatments. Organoids have a huge advantage over animal experimentation, as they are based on human or patient-derived cells that better reflect what happens in the patient’s organ, but still present some limitations.

Dr Driton Vllasaliu, at King’s College London, is developing an improved model of the human intestine (gut) which is animal free. Our intestines are shaped like a long tube. The tube’s inner surface, known as the luminal side, is important in the absorption of food, drugs and in disease development. The current intestinal wall model, known as the human epithelial organoid, is limited in its usefulness for research because it is grown with the luminal side cells shielded and therefore inaccessible to researchers.

Dr Vllasaliu aims to develop an intestinal wall model with an exposed luminal side. This means drug development and testing, nutritional research and the study of gastrointestinal diseases will be made more accessible for researchers. Replacing the animals used gastrointestinal disease research as well as bigger strides in understanding and treating these diseases could be achieved through this research.