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Summer Student 2021: Yutong Chen

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Summer Student 2021: Yutong Chen

Exploring state-of-the-art artificial intelligence-based methods to reduce the time taken to acquire magnetic resonance images (MRI).

Supervisor name and institution: Dr Guang Yang, Imperial College London

Project summary:

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a non-invasive technique that uses strong magnetic fields and radio waves to create detailed images of the organs and tissues in the body. However, compared to other medical imaging techniques, it takes a long time taken to acquire these images. This limits the usefulness of MRI in an emergency setting and for imaging rapid physiological processes such as the heart beating. Scientists therefore often use animals to study heart scarring and heart failure.

In this Summer Studentship, Yutong will explore state-of-the-art artificial intelligence-based methods to reduce the time taken to acquire magnetic resonance images (MRI). He will use a specific method called generative adversarial network (GAN) to reconstruct full magnetic resonance images from the incomplete pictures of the hearts of human patients. If successful, this research could enable faster and cheaper magnetic resonance imaging and help to replace animals by allowing heart scarring to be studied directly in human patients.

Animals project will replace: Mice ,rats and pigs.

Watch Yutong’s Summer School presentation…

 

Get to know Yutong…

Why do you want to participate in animal replacement summer studentship?

In the first day of medical school, I swore to myself “first do no harm”, to human patients in my future clinical training as well as animals in my future medical research experience. I am against the idea of inflicting harm on animals in clinical research which is why I want to investigate human diseases using human relevant research.

How will the Summer Student Programme help to kick-start your career as an animal free researcher?

I believe this program would tremendously benefit my future career as an animal free researcher. It will support my learning of important animal free research skills, including image analysis and computer modelling.

I am also excited by the summer school the program offers. This amazing opportunity will not only broaden my knowledge of replacements for animal research, but will also bring together like-minded people, with interests in different research fields but united by the desire to end the use of animals in research. I believe this would spark future animal free research collaborations.

Why is research without the use of animals important to you?

Two years ago, I was doing my work experience in a heart research institute in China where the leading researchers were sadly teaching using mice. There I became frustrated that the researchers believed that the use of animals would have a translational benefit to human patients.

Because of this I quit my work experience one month early, and it drove me to pursue animal free research in my university studies.

How does your project fit in with your degree?

My summer project aims to explore the role of artificial intelligence (AI) in improving medical diagnosis of heart scarring. As a medical student and a machine learning enthusiast, this is a perfect opportunity. I can combine my two passions in improving medical diagnosis by making use of the ever-expanding quantity of medical data available.

I hope to build upon my experience of AI, by working on a more complicated AI-based computational system. The computational skills and insight into AI-based medical research cannot be acquired from my medical course alone, so this project will help to address that knowledge gap.

What are your future plans and career aspirations?

I have chosen a medical imaging project, because of my career ambition of becoming a radiologist and my love of anatomy. Extending from my summer project, in a similar field, I wish to pursue the MB-PhD program in Cambridge.

 

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

Many human relevant approaches have been introduced into the scientific world, but unfortunately, the use of animals in medical research is entrenched and institutionalised, with many researchers still viewing animal experiments as the gold standard. This is our time to make change happen. Our work is funded entirely by your generous support, so please make a donation today to help us free animals from laboratories for good.

Support the next generation of scientists who are innovating the future of research, and join us in building a brighter future for humans and for the animals.

 

 

Page last modified on December 15, 2021 3:38 pm

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Summer Student 2021: Imogen Carmichael

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Summer Student 2021: Imogen Carmichael

Developing a new cell-based model to study dementia.

Supervisor name and institution: Dr Patricia Ragazzon, Keele University

Project summary:

Many dementias, including Alzheimer’s disease appear to be affected by a variety of internal and external facts including genetics, sex, diet, and the environment. A great amount of research on Alzheimer’s disease has been performed on many animals including mice, rats and monkeys.

In this project, Imogen will test if an animal-free media can be used to grow and differentiate a cellular model of dementia. This cell line has been obtained from a human nerve tissue cancer. Working with cell lines also helps us to have less variables in the experiments. The nerve cells will be fed a commercial animal-free food solution called BrainPhys. To form the range of different types of cells found in the brain, they will be treated with retinoic acid, which makes them to change their characteristics.

This human relevant model can be used for several dementia studies without the need to use animal derived ingredients. Additionally, this will allow patient-specific research using human cell systems.

Animals project will replace: Cows

Watch Imogen’s Summer School presentation…

 

Get to know Imogen…

Why do you want to participate in animal replacement summer studentship?

Having always been brought up around animals, as a child we kept chickens, a duck, several guinea pigs and rabbits and currently two cats – I know the benefits of having animals around can have on people’s emotional wellbeing and it saddens me knowing that there are some animals that never truly get to live the right life filled with freedom and love due to being in laboratories. By successfully removing the use of animals in research, we will be able to provide them with a life that they deserve without cruelty or harm.

During my studies I have learned that it isn’t possible to properly trace parallels between animal test results and those of the test results when products go to human trials, therefore I hope that by being a part of this Summer Studentship programme I am able to learn more about the process of producing animal free cells which will enable me to further my understanding of how to change the way the pharmaceutical industry considers the use of animals altogether.

How will the Summer Student Programme help to kick-start your career as an animal free researcher?

During my studies from college to my current year of degree study, I have been interested in how the pharmaceutical industry can continue to improve and reduce waste and their environmental impact. One way to reduce the environmental impact the pharmaceutical industry has is by ending animal testing that is carried out during the trial phases.

I am interested in helping to remove the need for animals to be used in the pharmaceutical industry.

During the Summer Student Programme, I hope to gain more knowledge into laboratory practices, expand my abilities to understand how the future of pharmaceutical science can progress without the use of animals, and increase my hands-on experience in a true laboratory setting, of which one day I hope to continue my career in.

What are your future plans and career aspirations?

I aim to one day carry on my education in the form of a master’s degree in pharmaceutical science. I’m hoping that by completing this Summer Student Programme I will gain an idea of exactly what area I would like to and this opportunity may even potentially shape the research project I do in my third year of undergraduate study.

In the future I am aiming to work in improving the pharmaceutical industry’s ethical and environmental impacts. I hope to work towards replacing the use of animals in research and provide alternative ways of testing products that are completely animal free. By being a part of this programme, I feel that I will already have a greater understanding of how to improve the pharmaceutical industry and thereby set me apart for other candidates in future job opportunities.

 

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

Many human relevant approaches have been introduced into the scientific world, but unfortunately, the use of animals in medical research is entrenched and institutionalised, with many researchers still viewing animal experiments as the gold standard. This is our time to make change happen. Our work is funded entirely by your generous support, so please make a donation today to help us free animals from laboratories for good.

Support the next generation of scientists who are innovating the future of research, and join us in building a brighter future for humans and for the animals.

 

Page last modified on December 15, 2021 3:50 pm

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Summer Student 2021: Rosie Davis

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Summer Student 2021: Rosie Davis

Breaking down barriers to improve bowel cancer treatments.

Supervisor name and institution: Dr Nick Peake, Sheffield Hallam University

Project summary:

Bowel cancer is the 3rd most common cancer in the world, and the 2nd most common cause of cancer-related deaths. When diagnosed and treated early, the disease is easily treatable by surgery and chemotherapy. However, half of all patients are diagnosed with advanced disease which has a very poor prognosis – if the disease has spread from the bowel, less than 10% of patients survive for 5 years. Even when treatment is apparently successful, disease returns in up to 50% of patients, so there is an urgent need to develop better treatments for advanced disease.

Cancer research dedicated to developing new treatments is heavily dependent on animals, particularly mice. This is because cancer is a very complex disease, with cancer cells invading into tissue causing a defensive response – the tissue becomes very dense, stiff and fibrous. Cancer has been described as a “wound that never heals”. Considerable efforts have been dedicated to developing models mimicking cancer in the laboratory, however there are few that reproduce this wound-like response, so researchers frequently resort to using mice.

To address these challenges, the team at Sheffield Hallam University have been using an approach combining cancer cells and normal cells in a gel to mimic interactions in the 3D cancer environment. Using these models, we can see tissue becoming more fibrous and stiff where cancers invade. This is important, because stiff, dense tissue appears to restrict drug access to the cancer cells, and we believe that this has serious implications for bowel cancer patients – enabling cancer cells to “hide” from current treatments.

Rosie’s project will develop better human relevant models of this dense tissue “barrier”. Rosie will use human tissue-derived material, which contains the molecules that form these fibrous regions, and importantly she will engineer it so that they become as dense and stiff as the tissue seen in advanced-stage bowel cancer.

The aim of the project is to provide a tool to allow scientists to study how drugs are absorbed into dense cancer tissue without needing to use mice.

Animals project will replace: Mice, rats and rabbits.

Watch Rosie’s Summer School presentation…

 

Get to know Rosie…

Why do you want to participate in animal replacement summer studentship?

Over the past 2 years, I have developed a passion for laboratory research, and I am keen to utilise the skills I have obtained to improve animal welfare and work to reduce unnecessary exploitation in research environments.

Consciously working to reduce my role in animal cruelty, both through my diet as a vegetarian and the products I purchase, is integral to my personal values. To be able to work alongside researchers with a shared interest in human relevant cancer research, whilst simultaneously working to replace the use of animals in research, is an unmissable opportunity.

How will the Summer Student Programme help to kick-start your career as an animal free researcher?

During my second year, I was introduced to animal free research whilst completing a laboratory project on prostate cancer. I am keen to build on my experience, raise awareness and promote animal free research in both teaching and research labs in the future to help to end the use of animals in research.

What are your future plans and career aspirations?

As a graduate, I have aspirations to carry out a PhD in order to kickstart a career in research, specifically oncology related. As cancer research heavily relies on the use of animals, this studentship would be incredibly helpful in terms of equipping me with the knowledge and transferable skills to take forward an animal-free approach into my future research career.

 

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

Many human relevant approaches have been introduced into the scientific world, but unfortunately, the use of animals in medical research is entrenched and institutionalised, with many researchers still viewing animal experiments as the gold standard. This is our time to make change happen. Our work is funded entirely by your generous support, so please make a donation today to help us free animals from laboratories for good.

Support the next generation of scientists who are innovating the future of research, and join us in building a brighter future for humans and for the animals.

 

 

Page last modified on December 15, 2021 3:50 pm

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Summer Student 2021: Fiona Nhi Dang

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Summer Student 2021: Fiona Nhi Dang

Development of a computational model to simulate the leading causes of cardiac arrest.

Supervisor name and institution: Dr Mariana Laviola, University of Nottingham

Project summary:

A cardiac arrest is when the heart suddenly stops pumping blood around the body and so the person falls unconscious, unresponsive and stops breathing. There are different causes that can lead to cardiac arrest, related and not to the heart, such as heart attack and severe haemorrhage due to trauma. A heart attack happens when the supply of blood to the heart is suddenly blocked, usually by a blood clot; while severe haemorrhage is the loss of a large amount of blood and is due to trauma. In the UK, 30,000 cardiac arrests occur each year outside of the hospital where resuscitation is attempted, 180 people die from heart attacks each day and only 7.5% of people survive from traumatic cardiac arrest.

The process of cardiac arrest is complex and differs upon the causes that originate it. Different causes of cardiac arrest may need different resuscitation strategies because they act in a different way on the human body. However, the difficulty of conducting clinical trials and the poor translation of animal research into human studies due to fundamental differences in species, leave important gaps in the understanding of cardiac arrest.

Computer modelling is a new research tool that well suits to research in critical illness, since in contrast to animal and human studies, virtual patients are always configurable and reproducible.

In her summer project, Fiona will investigate the physical and biological changes that occur within the body as a result of heart attack and severe haemorrhage using the Interdisciplinary Collaboration in Systems Medicine simulation suite (a computer simulation of pulmonary and cardiovascular systems). Fiona’s project will replace rats, pigs, mice and rabbits, normally used in this field of research. This study will help clinicians to develop tailored and cause-specific resuscitation treatments without experimenting on animals.

Animals project will replace: Pigs and mice.

Watch Fiona’s Summer School presentation…

 

Get to know Fiona…

Why do you want to participate in animal replacement summer studentship?

In my third year studying medicine at the University of Nottingham (UoN), I gained insight into the excitement and dedication that comes with carrying out research projects.

I developed an interest in using methods to replace the use of animals in research by taking part in an oral presentation about 3D printing – I looked into how 3D bioprinting is more reliable in clinical tests for drugs. The exciting 3D projects already being undertaken at Animal Free Research UK showcasing alternative lab techniques gave me the curiosity to apply to the Summer Student Programme. This is a great opportunity for me to consolidate my interests in animal free research and to start a new research study with Dr Marianna Laviola and the Interdisciplinary Collaboration in Systems Medicine (ICSM) team at the University of Nottingham. The project will focus on better understanding of the states of cardiac arrest via computational simulations without the need for using animals.

How will the Summer Student Programme help to kick-start your career as an animal free researcher?

Involving myself in animal free research will be a personal launch-pad for developing my career prospects, as this competitive and prestigious Summer Student Programme is well-recognised for encouraging budding-researchers to pioneer novel methodology. I also look forward to the online Summer School, where I can learn about like-minded students with their novel projects and gain further insight into animal free research.

Why is research without the use of animals important to you?

Research without the use of animals, as well as following a vegan lifestyle, are important to me due to my religious values. I was raised a Buddhist and learnt one of the key virtues – Ahimsa – that teaches not to injure and to have respect for all living things. This deepened my sense of identity and unity with animals in realising that being human or animal are just realms of existence for sentient beings. Therefore, it personally feels immoral to exploit animals and their lack of autonomy for the potential (and unreliable) benefit to human development.

What are your future plans and career aspirations?

Regarding the future, I hope to become a strong asset to the NHS in managing and developing ways to address the UK’s ageing population. Cardiac arrest mortality is seen in all demographics but is mostly in the older age groups, where I feel much development will occur to adapt to managing more older patients with chronic conditions and their livelihoods. The UK being one of the few countries at the forefront of adapting to an ageing population; thus, getting involved in this pioneering research with Animal Free Research UK alongside the ICSM team is vocationally and personally incredibly exciting.

 

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

Many human relevant approaches have been introduced into the scientific world, but unfortunately, the use of animals in medical research is entrenched and institutionalised, with many researchers still viewing animal experiments as the gold standard. This is our time to make change happen. Our work is funded entirely by your generous support, so please make a donation today to help us free animals from laboratories for good.

Support the next generation of scientists who are innovating the future of research, and join us in building a brighter future for humans and for the animals.

 

Page last modified on December 15, 2021 3:50 pm

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Summer Student 2021: Emily-Rose Martin

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Summer Student 2021: Emily-Rose Martin

Designing an animal free method of growing neuron-like cells to study brain development.

Supervisor name and institution: Josan Gandawijaya, University of Exeter

Project summary:

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders – it affects social interaction, communication and behaviours. ASD is estimated to affect 1-2% of the global population, and although there have been tremendous advances in our understanding of how gene mutations contribute to ASD risk, the specific causes underlying ASD and how they alter brain development is not well understood.

Neurons are one of the major cell types in the brain, forming networks of connections to process information. When neurons mature, their shape changes to produce the characteristic tree-like shape – this lays the foundation for the neuronal networks in the brain. The mechanisms controlling neuronal shape and maturation are pivotal for brain development. Importantly, irregular neuron shape is a characteristic of ASD, and many individuals affected by ASD carry mutations that disrupt genes controlling neuron shape. Therefore, a human-relevant neuron model will be useful for investigating the role of ASD candidate genes in neuron shape and maturation.

Scientists have successfully grown human neurons to study how their shape changes during maturation, however, the supply of these neurons is limited, and they stop growing once matured. Furthermore, growing human neurons is a time-consuming and expensive process. To overcome these issues, some scientists are using a type of neuron-like cells called SH-SY5Y cells. However, there is currently no standardised method of growing SH-SY5Y cells, with different laboratories implementing different strategies, and no laboratory managing to grow SH-SY5Y cells without the use of animal-derived materials.

During her summer project, Emily-Rose will work to establish a new method of growing neuron-like SH-SY5Y cells eliminating the need for animal-derived materials. The project will involve a wide range of cell culture and microscopy imaging techniques to analyse neuronal cell growth, maturity and shape.

Animals project will replace: Mice and rats.

 

Get to know Emily-Rose…

Why do you want to participate in animal replacement summer studentship?

I am fascinated with the processes underlying brain development, and I am eager to further my knowledge by working with Mr. Josan Gandawijaya and Dr. Asami Oguro-Ando at the RILD laboratories at the University of Exeter.

This summer research project will provide me with valuable and versatile laboratory skills and techniques that are applicable beyond the field of neuroscience.

How will the Summer Student Programme help to kick-start your career as an animal free researcher?

My summer research project presents a perfect opportunity for me to participate in neuroscience and work with neuron brain cells – something I have not had much opportunity to do.

I am also excited to acquire new techniques and to learn more about the CRISPR-Cas9 (a gene-editing tool that identifies specific sequences of DNA, cuts out ‘faults’ and replaces them with a ‘healthy’ sequence) work being undertaken. I believe that genetic engineering will be a powerful tool in animal free research.

This summer research project also gives me the opportunity to experience a professional laboratory environment, different from the teaching laboratories in my undergraduate studies, allowing me to build connections and practice collaborative skills as I work with other group members.

Why is research without the use of animals important to you?

The undergraduate modules I studied have provided me with an excellent background in neuroscience, however, most of the material taught on neurodevelopment was derived from mice, rat, insect or fish studies.

I became inspired when I attended a seminar series at the University of Exeter where the speakers at these seminars were undertaking pivotal human-relevant research.

I believe that human diseases should be studied using human models. In the future, I hope to design disease models that more accurately represent human biology and have greater capacity for generating human relevant results. My summer project is a great example of refining techniques to improve upon existing human models.

What are your future plans and career aspirations?

After graduating, I plan to undertake a Ph.D. studentship. I will be applying for neuroscience-focused PhD projects at the University of Exeter. My ultimate goal is to become an academic researcher in the field of neuroscience, and the Animal Free Research UK Summer Student Programme would be a major stepping-stone to kick-start my career.

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

Many human relevant approaches have been introduced into the scientific world, but unfortunately, the use of animals in medical research is entrenched and institutionalised, with many researchers still viewing animal experiments as the gold standard. This is our time to make change happen. Our work is funded entirely by your generous support, so please make a donation today to help us free animals from laboratories for good.

Support the next generation of scientists who are innovating the future of research, and join us in building a brighter future for humans and for the animals.

 

Page last modified on December 15, 2021 3:51 pm

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Summer Student 2021: Ali Mehmood

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Summer Student 2021: Ali Mehmood

Development of an ageing-associated tumour score to predict prognosis in head and neck cancer using artificial intelligence approaches.

Supervisor name and institution: Evija Dzene, Queen Mary University of London

Project summary:

Head and neck cancer is a deadly disease that affects more than 600,000 people worldwide. Tumour markers are substances, usually proteins, produced by the body in response to cancer growth or by cancer tissue itself. Their detection and measurement in blood plasma, urine or tissue can help to detect and aid diagnosis of some types of cancer, predict and monitor response to treatment and detect recurrence. Despite decades of extensive research using animals, not a single marker to predict treatment response or the course of head and neck cancer has reached clinics.

Our cells constantly divide as we get older, however, this growth is not unlimited and after a predefined number of divisions, our cells age and stop dividing in a process called cellular senescence. Cancer cells increase rapidly by overcoming the body’s natural “ageing clock” and continuing to divide until a tumour has been formed. Cells can also be “forced” to stop dividing as an anti-tumour response in a process termed oncogene-induced senescence. However, the relationship between senescence and cancer is further complicated by the fact that senescent cells secrete proteins which promote cancer, even though they themselves have been forced to stop dividing. This project will explore the complex relationship between senescence and cancer using artificial intelligence approaches in head and neck cancer.

Ali’s project seeks to use a combination of computer learning and animal free laboratory techniques to develop a marker to predict the progression of disease in patients with head and neck cancer.

Animals project will replace: Mice and rats.

Watch Ali’s Summer School presentation…

Get to know Ali…

Why do you want to participate in animal replacement summer studentship?

I want to develop my research skills and understanding how it works to make advances in understanding diseases. To be part of an animal free research programme is a fantastic opportunity as I believe that this is the direction that all research should move in.

How will the Summer Student Programme help to kick-start your career as an animal free researcher?

It would provide a platform to gain the necessary skills that would allow me to do further research in the future and will build on the work I’ve done in my BSc in Experimental Pathology. I see this studentship as a great way to get more involved in the field of animal free research.

Why is research without the use of animals important to you?

I think it’s important that we move away from the use of animals in research. Many animals are subjected to harm in experiments despite regulations being in place, so it is important that research moves away from their use in the future.

How does your project fit in with your degree?

This project would follow on from my BSc in Experimental Pathology and allow me to build on the research experience I have gained over the past few months. It will help me to gain lab and research skills I wouldn’t expect to gain from the medicine MBBS course.

What are your future plans and career aspirations?

At the moment I want to complete the MBBS degree and currently plan to go on become a junior doctor. However, from the experience I have already gained from the BSc and plan to gain from the studentship I would like to return to the labs to work on more projects in the future. By doing all these courses and projects I hope that I can become more rounded in my abilities from academic, research and clinical perspectives which in turn will provide more opportunities in the future.

 

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

Many human relevant approaches have been introduced into the scientific world, but unfortunately, the use of animals in medical research is entrenched and institutionalised, with many researchers still viewing animal experiments as the gold standard. This is our time to make change happen. Our work is funded entirely by your generous support, so please make a donation today to help us free animals from laboratories for good.

Support the next generation of scientists who are innovating the future of research, and join us in building a brighter future for humans and for the animals.

 

Page last modified on December 15, 2021 3:51 pm

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