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Summer Student 2021: Morwenna Oldfield

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Summer Student 2021: Morwenna Oldfield

Development of a novel method to advance drug delivery in the eye.

Supervisor name and institution: Dr Felicity de Cogan, University of Birmingham

Project summary:

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of vision loss in Europe and the US. Current therapies consist of monthly injections of antibodies into the eye delivered over several years. It unfortunately can have significant side effects, including infection and retinal detachment. There is a clear unmet need for topical applications that can be applied by the patient themselves without the requirement of a clinical environment.

Unfortunately, the eye poses significant difficulties to drug delivery as the structures of the eye intrinsically act as barriers to the penetration of drugs. The foremost of these is the cornea at the front of the eye.

In this project, Morwenna will build a cell-based membrane which will act as a model for the cornea allowing her to monitor how different drugs penetrate across the membrane and how delivery vehicles can be used to enhance the drug penetration. This work is essential to find novel ways of delivering drugs without relying on testing in animals.

Animals project will replace: Mice, rats and rabbits.

Watch Morwenna’s Summer School presentation…

 

Get to know Morwenna…

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

I am enthusiastic to promote alternative approaches to end animal experiments as I strongly believe that animal research is morally wrong. Having a dog and looking after guinea pigs as a child, I am very aware that animals have feelings, they are not inferior to humans and should not have to suffer at our expense as part of laboratory testing.

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

This studentship will enable me to develop my laboratory skills, and extend my knowledge on subjects I am interested in, as well as be an advocate for animal rights and championing animal free research in the future.

How does your project fit in with your degree?

By working on this project, I’m excited at the prospect of helping to develop novel animal free methods of delivering drugs to the eye. Not only should this improve experimental accuracy given the many differences between animal eyes and humans, it will also promote a new way of using human cells and in vitro (a process performed outside a living organism, e.g. in a test tube, culture dish) methods for future experiments.

What are your future plans and career aspirations?

Owing to COVID-19 restrictions, my laboratory experience has been limited, but working in a laboratory for the last 2 weeks of Easter term has made me appreciate how much I enjoy it and I am very keen to develop my research skills further. I have been working in the laboratory as a volunteer and I am now considering studying for an MSc or PhD Degree. Having undertaken a Biomedical Science degree I remain interested in the development of human disease and the development of new treatments and I really enjoyed learning about the anatomy of the ear and eye in first year.

 

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: Izzy Breithaupt

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Summer Student 2021: Izzy Breithaupt

Creating an animal-free approach towards regulatory (gene)toxicity testing methods.

Supervisor name and institution: Dr Martin Clift, Swansea University

Project summary:

There continues to be an influx of human relevant research models being developed to advance alternative approaches towards toxicology testing. However, most systems continue to use many animal-based components in their cell culture, e.g. animal serum, and more so in their toxicology testing, e.g. animal-derived antibodies.

The aim of Izzy’s project is to create, characterise and adopt an animal free approach towards genotoxicity (agents that damages the genetic information within a cell causing mutations) testing of a variety of different human toxicants, using advanced human lung and liver model systems.

Animals project will replace: Mice, rats and hamsters.

 

Watch Izzy’s Summer School presentation…

Get to know Izzy…

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

Animal free research is the future of medical research and is fast developing. To be part of a programme that is influencing laboratories across the country would allow me to develop as an ethical scientist. I will be able to use the new knowledge I learn from the studentship to make informed decisions in the future about the laboratories I want to work in and how to put my personal views on animal testing into practice.

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

Animal free research is an area that I want to be well practiced in throughout my career. A studentship sponsored by Animal Free Research UK would provide me with new experience to kick-start my career as an animal-free scientist. I will be able to learn first hand about the ways in which so many important areas of research can be improved by developing animal free methods.

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

I strongly believe that animals are not necessary for the development of drugs and other therapeutics. Animal free research techniques are available and should be prioritised by pharmaceutical companies. Not only is animal testing unethical, but it is also unsuitable to mimic human disease effectively. The replacement of the use of animals in research has the potential to develop more accurate and successful treatments.

What are your future plans and career aspirations?

I plan to further my education by enrolling on a Masters degree. Currently, my areas of interest are immunology and the reproductive system. Wherever I continue my education and find my individual career path, I want to be an advocate for animal free research which is why a studentship with Animal Free Research UK is the perfect opportunity. I believe it is the future for more accurate laboratory studies and is an area of the studentship that I will take forward throughout 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 3:52 pm

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Summer Student 2021: Riddhi Sharma

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Summer Student 2021: Riddhi Sharma

Parkinson’s disease: developing animal-free methods to study genetic and environmental causes.

Supervisor name and institution: Dr Nora Bourbia, UK Health Security Agency

Project summary:

In 2018 it was estimated that 145,519 people were living with Parkinson’s disease in the UK. That’s 1 in 350 adults. This is expected to reach 1 in 310 persons in the UK in 2025, to 1 in 230 persons by 2065.

Parkinson’s disease is a ‘multifactorial’ neuro degenerative disease in which most cases are idiopathic, meaning they are from an unknown cause. ‘Multifactorial disease’ means that there is an interaction between environmental and genetic factors. Therefore, there is a need to understand how environmental hazards affect the onset of Parkinson’s disease, to better understand how the disease begins and how it can potentially be prevented.

In her summer research project, Riddhi will develop a method to study the genetic and environmental causes of Parkinson’s disease in human brain cell lines, to assess whether the cells are entering a diseased state.

Animals project will replace: Mice and rats.

Watch Riddhi’s Summer School presentation…

 

Get to know Riddhi…

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

I am a vegetarian as I find it hard to justify the suffering of animals for our own pleasure and have maintained a vegetarian lifestyle since I was a child, at first due to cultural reasons and later due to my own personal choices. I believe that we should do all we can to diminish animal research and that charities such as Animal Free Research UK play such a vital role in this movement.

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

I hope to gain further insight into replacements for the use of animals in research and further my abilities as an animal-free researcher. I would love to be able to learn more in vitro (a process performed outside a living organism, e.g., in a test tube, culture dishbased techniques and become more confident in using them.

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

I believe we should do all we can to stop the use of animals in research. Aside from this, I feel that it is human-relevant research that allows for more growth in the techniques and resources we are able to use in pre-clinical trials.

How does your project fit in with your degree?

I have been interested in the field of neuroscience and neurological diseases ever since studying it at university in 1st year, and Parkinson’s is an area that I am particularly interested in. By researching into the genetics of the disease in a cruelty-free manner, I will be able to get a better understanding of the disease and get an opportunity to develop my practical skills. I’m super excited to work on this project and am really looking forward to starting.

What are your future plans and career aspirations?

I would like to complete a PhD, potentially in the field of neuroscience, which will be supported greatly by this placement and project. I would love to work in a career in the field of neuroscience or oncology, developing medications that help people live longer and better lives. I hope to be in a position in my career where I know I am making a difference in the industry, and in people’s lives.

 

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 3:52 pm

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Summer Student 2021: Dania Alkhatib

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Summer Student 2021: Dania Alkhatib

Validation of a cancer stem cell scoring method to predict the spread of head and neck tumours using artificial intelligence approaches.

Supervisor name and institution: Dr Gehad Youssef, Queen Mary Institute of London

Project summary:

Head and neck cancer affects more than 550,000 people globally and the incidence rates have increased by 22% over the past decade. It is one of the deadliest forms of tumours because even after the primary cancer has been removed, secondary cancers often reappear and spread to other sites of the body.

When a patient is diagnosed with head and neck cancer, a biopsy is taken for routine histological examination prior to the excision of the primary tumour and the initiation of radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatments. Pathologists use this biopsy to try to understand the type of head and neck cancer the patient has and to determine how invasive the tumours are. However, one of the biggest problems that they face – and this is one of the greatest challenges in the management of cancers – is that there is no definitive way of knowing whether the tumour will return and aggressively spread to other parts of the body (known as metastasis).

The research group at the Animal Replacement Centre (ARC 1.0) has recently identified cancer stem cells in human tissue samples that are highly predictive of the spread of head and neck tumour using machine learning approaches.

The ARC has been collaborating with Dr Mohit Kumar Jolly, a mathematical modelling scientist at the Cancer System Biology Laboratory (IISc Bangalore, India). Dr Jolly’s team have developed scoring methods to predict how likely tumours will recur and spread to other parts of the body based on the groups of gene present in human tissue samples.

In her project, Dania will validate and refine the scores developed by Dr Jolly in 202 head and neck cancer samples using artificial intelligence (AI) approaches without the use of animals. This will allow her to address an important unmet clinical need: can we predict tumour recurrence and spread for head and neck cancer.

Animals project will replace: Mice, rats and pigs.

Watch Dania’s Summer School presentation…

 

Get to know Dania…

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

In my MSc research project I had the chance to work on different cancer cell lines, learning more about them and molecular biology techniques. However, some of my cancer cell lines were derived from animals. When I presented my poster at the William Harvey Day – an annual student poster exhibition – I was approached by Dr Gehad Youssef who challenged me to consider that animal replacement methods could lead to human relevant advances and that was the ethically sound thing to do. He offered to supervise me on the Animal Free Research UK Summer Student Programme to focus my future research efforts using animal replacement methods.

What are your future plans and career aspirations?

I graduated from the faculty of dentistry at Al-Quds University in East Jerusalem. Since early years of dental school, my personal interest has been concerned on how evidence-based interventions should be developed and evaluated to promote effective treatment. Despite the challenging environment, I have ambitions to lead a research group that uses advanced computer modelling and human clinical samples to make significant advances in oral pathology and more broadly to be a pioneer in Palestine for animal replacement techniques.

 

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 3:52 pm

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Summer Student 2021: Amir Fard

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Summer Student 2021: Amir Fard

Using organoids (miniaturized and simplified version of an organ) to investigate the causes of colon cancer.

Supervisor name and institution: Dr Marc de la Roche, Cambridge University

Project summary:

Cells need to interact with their environment and other cells around them in order to detect nutrients and respond to changes. The process by which messages are sent to cells is called cell signalling. There are many different cell signalling pathways, all of which are important for maintaining the normal functioning of tissues within the body. Changes in a cell signalling pathway known as the Wnt pathway have been linked to increased risk of colon cancer.

A protein called TCF7LF2 plays a key role in the Wnt pathway by stimulating cells to produce other proteins that are required for normal function. It is therefore particularly important to understand how changes in TCF7LF2 affect the Wnt pathway and can lead to colon cancer. During his Summer Studentship, Amir will use 3D human organoid models of normal colon tissue and of colon cancer to study the role of TCF7LF2. Unlike 2D cell models of colon cancer, these organoids possess all of the structural features of normal and cancerous colon tissue and do not require the use of animal products to grow the cells.

Using specialised cellular tools, Amir will tweak the levels of two types of TCF7LF2 within the cells of these organoids. He will then determine whether these changes alter the rate of cell division and whether this impacts the structure of these organoids. This important research will help scientists to understand the role of the Wnt pathway in colon cancer and could help to identify new treatment strategies. Amir’s research could also help to replace the use of animals in colon cancer research.

Animals project will replace: Mice and rats.

Watch Amir’s Summer School presentation…

 

Get to know Amir…

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

Research into colorectal cancer (CRC) is not only extremely fascinating to me, but also has important clinical implications with CRC being the 4th most common cancer in the UK, affecting approximately 40,000 people in the UK per year. Unfortunately, the literature in my degree has highlighted the significant use of mice in current research into CRC.

I passionately believe that new methods can be developed to both replace the use of animals in medical research whilst also providing more accurate human relevant research.

The Summer Student Programme will be extremely beneficial as I will learn about the fundamental skills required in a lab. It will not only effectively boost my career in research, but importantly it will direct my research into a field I am extremely interested in and dedicated to pursuing.

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

I applied to study medicine as I had a desire to benefit the lives of everyone around me. Upon reading Dr de la Roche’s research, I believed joining him will enable me to apply my knowledge of the sciences to not only help improve the clinical care of humans, but also to help end the use of animals in research.

Despite questioning the ethics behind using animals for research, I have rarely read an article about the potential to replace animals in research. This summer research programme with Dr de la Roche will be a critical step in my aspiration to become a future clinician who also carries out animal free research in novel therapeutic treatments. Not only will I be fortunate enough to experience some of the most cutting-edge techniques currently being developed in science, but I will also gain knowledge and skills in the development of animal free research methods.

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

I have often questioned my passion for research as I fundamentally disagree with the use of animals in research, but experience is showing me that successful human relevant research is possible without causing harm to any animals.

My research project focuses on an animal free research method I believe could be hugely successful within cancer research.

I truly believe that modern science has now reached a critical point where animal testing can be completely replaced by novel, more ethical methods – I would love to be a part of this.

What are your future plans and career aspirations?

My future plan is to carry on with my clinical studies and qualify as a doctor where I intend to carryout out research of my own whilst being a practitioner.

 

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 3:53 pm

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Summer Student 2019: Kathryn Bailey

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Summer Student 2019: Kathryn Bailey

Supervised by Dr Nathaniel Milton at Leeds Beckett University, Kathryn will produce synthetic compounds to monitor microbial infections and Alzheimer’s disease and help replace experiments on millions of animals worldwide – including hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits, goats, sheep, horses, mice and rats.

Microbial resistance to antibiotics is a major problem for patients suffering with microbial infections. Some microbes, such as bacteria, can produce an enzyme called ß-Lactamase, which breaks down penicillin and other antibiotics, making the bacteria resistant to current antibiotic treatments. The presence of certain bacteria in patients may also be a marker of Alzheimer’s disease. The measurement of ß-Lactamase in both microbial infections and Alzheimer’s disease therefore has the potential to help medical professionals identify, monitor and treat these diseases.

The current measurement of ß-Lactamase uses antibodies, which are small biological molecules that can detect other specific molecules in the body. Unfortunately, millions of animals worldwide – including hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits, goats, sheep, horses, mice and rats – are forced to produce antibodies, which are then extracted from their bodies by inserting a needle directly into their heart as it is beating, to remove as much blood as possible from their body. When no more blood can be extracted, the animals are killed.

In her summer studentship, Kathryn will generate synthetic compounds, called aptamers, that can be used to measure ß-Lactamase in patient samples without experimenting on animals. Kathryn’s new method to measure ß-Lactamase using animal free, synthetic antibodies could help to evaluate the true potential of detecting this enzyme in patients with microbial infections and Alzheimer’s disease. Her research will also promote the use of cheap non-animal antibody replacements, which could totally replace antibody production in animals if universally adopted and help to convince other researchers of their potential.

Finding a replacement for animal experiments is important to me due to my deep empathy for animals. My summer research project is the best starting point to be able to move forward with my education and career in a cruelty-free way. Most people pursue a career in science to help other people, my aim is to help those that cannot help themselves – animals. I believe we can strive for the complete replacement of animals in the laboratory and use science to help animals rather than harm them.

A lack of confidence, as well as ignorance, can stand in the way of a new scientist feeling able to question methods that experiment on animals. I feel that my summer research project will break down these barriers and introduce a new-found confidence for me to question such methods, teaching me to stand up for animal rights in the laboratory.

Page last modified on February 5, 2020 4:19 pm

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