Summer Student: Deyna Jenkins

Summer Student: Deyna Jenkins

By 17/06/2019 No Comments

Summer Student: Deyna Jenkins

Supervised by Dr Daniel Kelly at Sheffield Hallam University, Deyna will develop an animal free 3D cell model of human muscle contraction to help replace experiments on mice and rats in exercise related diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, obesity and heart disease.

When your muscles contract, they secrete unique proteins, called myokines. The beneficial effects of exercise are considered to be partly due to myokines because they can influence other tissues in the body to affect the way fats and sugars are processed. Understanding the pathways involved in the release of myokines from muscle contraction therefore could have huge implications for improving the treatment of diseases such as type 2 diabetes, obesity and heart disease.

Unfortunately, live animals are frequently experimented on to study muscle function and the production of myokine during exercise. Mice and rats can be force-fed drugs or fatty diets to make them obese, before being forced to exercise. Even when they are tired and want to stop, they may be given electric shocks to force them to continue exercising until they’re exhausted. Blood is repeatedly extracted from them by slicing their tails open. They are then all killed, and their muscles are cut out for further experiments.

In her summer research project, Deyna will use human cells and proteins to develop a novel 3D model of skeletal muscle, which has the ability to contract and mimic what happens to muscles when you exercise. She will then identify, isolate, and characterise the secreted myokines, which can then be used to investigate their role in obesity and related diseases.

Deyna’s animal free model of muscle contraction could accelerate knowledge about the mechanisms behind the benefits of exercise. Ultimately, her research could help enhance the possibility of using beneficial myokines as a treatment to target the way fats and sugars are processed in the body and improve outcomes in diseases such as type 2 diabetes, obesity and related cardiovascular diseases – as well as helping replace experiments on rats and mice.

It has become apparent to me through the use of many different reagents and through my literature searches as part of my degree, how much animals are relied on for research. Many animals endure pain and suffering to generate information that may not be relevant to human disease at all. I believe that much more can be done to reduce the numbers of animals experimented on in research and ultimately replace animals altogether.

Working in the laboratory has been the highlight of my undergraduate degree so far. My summer research project will give me the opportunity to be involved specifically in research where I can immerse myself in a project and see my contribution benefiting medical research. Not only will my summer research project provide me with great confidence and independence in the laboratory, but it will also provide me with an insight into non-animal research that is relevant to humans, which I would like to pursue in my future career.

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