Using explant cell culture to replace mice studies, Bronte Munro at the University of East Anglia will investigate the causes of atopic dermatitis and psoriasis.

SUPERVISOR: Dr Jelena Gavrilovic - University of East Anglia

STUDENT: Ms Bronte Munro

Atopic dermatitis (AD) is a common chronic skin condition which results from over-activation of the body's defences (called inflammation) and currently the best treatments are steroid creams which are effective but long term use can lead to skin thinning. Studying skin from people with AD is not practical and so we have developed a system in the laboratory which uses waste skin from surgical procedures to recreate the type of inflammation characteristic of AD. Here the aim is to further refine the model and to understand what happens to the immune cells (which cause inflammation) in the skin. This refined system will allow us to test new treatments in the future and therefore lead to new ways to treat AD.

Mice are frequently used to model atopic dermatitis or psoriasis and can also include human skin equivalents grafted onto SCID mice. Searching Pubmed for UK papers in mouse atopic dermatitis or psoriasis models reveals approximately 50 papers since 2010 but likely many more are conducted for example in the pharmaceutical industry which do not reach publication.  In general groups of 3-6 mice are used per experimental treatment but some group sizes can be 10 or above. For example in one study comparing in vivo mouse Langerhans cell migration used 4 mice per group in one experiment (16 mice in total) and 15 mice per group in a second experiment (60 mice in total;  J Immunol. 2004 Mar 15;172(6):3822-9). In another example for psoriasis-like inflammation induced in mice groups of 4-6 mice were used (J Invest Dermatol. 2013 Nov;133(11):2555-65). These experiments would be classified as moderate. In our ex-vivo human model we can establish up to 150 explants from a single donor and thus can potentially replace up to 25 mice in each experiment.