Summer Student Emma Ewen
Supervised by Professor Nikolai Zhelev at Abertay University, Emma Ewen is reviewing hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (thickening of the heart muscle) research to show that human organoid cultures are more relevant than experiments on beagles.
Animals have traditionally been used for preclinical evaluation of cardiovascular drugs, as well as to investigate side-effects of other drug candidates on the heart.
However, animals do not accurately mimic human hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (thickening of the heart muscle) due to our physiological differences. Professor Zhelev’s research group have therefore grown ‘mini-hearts’ from human stem cells, to study disease.
In her summer project, Emma used a bioinformatics approach (combining biology and computer science) to compare this animal free mini-heart model with research from other laboratories working on preclinical development of cardiovascular drugs. Her work has contributed to a report containing an in-depth description of the ‘mini-heart’ method and guidance for its use to potentially help replace animals in preclinical evaluation of cardiovascular drugs.
The biotechnology industry is notorious for the use of animals for drug testing and this horrifies me. It is exciting to be able to contribute to research into replacing animals in biomedical research and form part of a team who bring this idea to fruition. I believe this research could pave the way for further development of non-animal testing models and I hope to see a day when animal testing is stopped for good.