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Summer Student 2017: Joy Girgis

Animal free testing methods to treat human lung disease 

Joy Girgis Summer Student lung disease air airways cell vitro model

Summer Student Joy Girgis

Joy, supervised by Dr Ewelina Hoffman at the University of Hertfordshire, has developed a model to better understand the interactions between lung cells and how they respond to therapies.

The novel model developed by Joy mimicked the environment of lower airways by incorporating different types of human lung cells. The model may result in better screening of new inhaled drugs, appearance of new drugs to the market and overall better treatment of airway diseases in people.

Furthermore, future use of this model for pre-clinical testing would save approximately 210 rodents from pain and suffering per experiment (when conducted with three replicates).

“I have become far more aware of how non-animal approaches can be used and are technically feasible. This studentship has given me a great insight into what postgraduate study is like and will help in my final year project. It will open so many doors for me in research in the future. “ – Joy Girgis
“The Animal Free Research UK Summer Studentship is a fantastic way of introducing young people to animal free research. Students have an opportunity to work on cutting-edge research and gain some lab experience, which will surely be beneficial in their future career.” – Dr Ewelina Hoffman

The Science behind the studentship

Development of human cell co-culture for respiratory diseases

Lung diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are an increasing global health burden affecting hundreds of millions of people worldwide. The development of new inhaled medicines for the treatment of airway disease is being held back by the lack of understanding of how the airways respond to new therapies. Alveolar macrophages with foamy appearance are often observed in the lungs of rats when dosed with new inhaled candidate drugs. This stops their progression in drug discovery on the grounds of safety.

The lack of relevant tools and mechanistic understanding of macrophage stimulation prevents current preclinical studies from determining whether the immune responses in the lungs are normal or adverse. The aim of current research is to develop a non-animal in vitro cell co-culture model alongside with the high content functionality assay to better understand the interactions between alveolar cells, which may result in better screening of new inhaled drugs, appearance of new drugs to market and overall better treatment of airway diseases in people.

Pre-clinical safety testing of new medicines is assessed mainly using rats. A single biology efficacy study uses approximately 70 animals. The study may be repeated three times, requiring 210 animals. These studies are not only time- and cost-consuming, but also distressing and painful to animals.

This project will reduce number of animals used in pre-clinical safety testing by establishing the cell co-culture model, followed by high content multi-parameter in vitro screen. These novel tools developed within the project will allow for early identification of biologically active / non-active compounds, resulting in better prediction of compound safety later in drug development.

Page last modified on February 14, 2019 3:14 pm