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Summer Student 2022: Tom Whalley

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Summer Student 2022: Tom Whalley

Development of a humanised 3D model for osteoporosis research

Supervisor name and institution: Professor Gwendolen Reily, University of Sheffield

Project summary:

Osteoporosis is the most common bone disease. Osteoporosis has many contributing factors, but can be caused by hormone changes such as a drop in oestrogen in women after the menopause; leading to a reduction in bone density and increasing the risk of bone breaks. It is estimated that 3 million people in the UK alone suffer from osteoporosis with 500,000 people receiving hospital treatment every year for bone breaks as a result of the disease, costing the NHS around £4.4 billion per year .

Currently osteoporosis is treated predominantly with drugs that help prevent or slow down bone thinning yet many still suffer. In my project I will develop an effective 3D model using human cells which can be tailored to mimic the bone of an osteoporosis sufferer.

My project will then use this model to incorporate the two types of bone cells in the same model, known as a co-culture. Osteoblasts are bone making cells and osteoclasts are bone resorbing cells. They are integral to healthy bone and their interplay is crucial to understanding osteoporosis.

Animals project will replace: Mice, rats, sheep, rabbits and dogs

Get to know Tom…

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

I want to participate in the summer studentship as I will have to consciously research in an animal free way, which will expose me to new ways of completing research, which I otherwise may not consider. Furthermore, I am passionate about reducing animal use in research. I am also very interested in the disease that I will be studying, osteoporosis, as it has a personal link. My Grandma suffered from the disease, and I saw the debilitating effects of it. Furthermore, my mum currently has osteopenia, the precursor to osteoporosis, therefore any work that I could do to further the understanding of the disease would be very meaningful to me personally.

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

Researching using animal is the norm, with animal free testing often not offered as an alternative. I sincerely hope that this experience, my first researching in an animal free way, can show me that animal free research is a possibility and does not impede successful outcomes.

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

The practice of using animals in research places humans above animals and suggests that their lives are worth little enough to be spent on quenching our desire for knowledge. There is no doubt that scientific inquiry, especially when aimed at alleviating human suffering is worthwhile but alleviating human suffering by inducing suffering on animals is both unnecessary and unjustified. There is no objective reason why animals should act as a model for humans. Although animals are living systems, animals share very different characteristics and disease profiles to humans which makes them an objectively bad model for scientific comparison. Conversely, lab-based models can be tailored to human disease without the need for animals.

How does your project fit in with your degree?

I have specialised in the biomaterials and tissue engineering stream. This project incorporates scaffold fabrication and cell culture skills to achieve its goals. These skills are integral in understanding and developing biomaterials. The hands-on experience that this project will give me means I will have a practical understanding of the field which will develop the understanding I have gained from my lectures.

What are your future plans and career aspirations?

I am starting a PhD in biomaterials at The University of Manchester in September on the topic of fibrotic tissue. I aim to have a career in academia, but I am also interested in gaining experience of working in industry.

 

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 July 7, 2022 8:47 am

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Summer Student 2022: Sophie Jorgensen

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Summer Student 2022: Sophie Jorgensen

A human tissue model for testing novel approaches
to deliver chemotherapies

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

Project summary:

Bowel cancer is the 3rd most common cancer in the world. When diagnosed and treated early, the disease can be treated easily. However, 50% of patients that are diagnosed with advanced disease have a poor prognosis.

The environment caused by bowel cancer is very complex – it includes interactions between cancer cells, surrounding cells, and other molecules. This series of interactions within the tissue creates a wound-like response from the body. The study of the cancer environment is heavily dependent on trying to recreate this environment primarily within mice. However, due to mice being structurally different in comparison to humans, 90% of drugs that appear to be effective in mice do not work in humans.

My project will develop a human tissue derived laboratory model to study drug interactions. This will be a human relevant, more realistic model to better study drug interactions within a cancerous environment as it can retain the structural elements of human tissue.

Animals project will replace: Mice, rats and rabbits

Get to know Sophie…

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

Over the course of my degree I have developed a keen interest to go into scientific research. When I came across Animal Free Research UK while looking for student research opportunities it was the ideal opportunity for me. The aims of Animal Free Research UK really resonate with me. I have been a vegetarian for 12 years and I strive to buy cruelty free products. Due to my chosen career using a huge amount of animal derived products and animals, being able to combine my personal values with the opportunity to collaborate and work with animal free researchers is a really exciting opportunity for me.

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

One of my main goals while carrying out my degree is to equip myself and gain experience that will put me in good stead for a career in research. When I graduate I am aiming to go onto do an MSc and PhD focusing on metabolic dysfunction associated with cancer and disease. I am passionate about broadening my knowledge surrounding this subject area. Being able to study the biomechanical environments and developing human tissue models would be a great next step. I  feel this research program would give me more extensive experience in ethical, cruelty-free laboratory research and develop my skills in preparation for my postgraduate education.

How does your project fit in with your degree?

A large part of my degree is studying disease states and the biology of disease progression. I learn both the theory and the ways in which we diagnose a variety of diseases. This project gives me the opportunity to put my knowledge into practice and it gives me an insight into how research works. This will also equip me skills and knowledge to carry out my final year research project at university.

 

 

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 July 7, 2022 8:29 am

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Summer Student 2022: Toba Shahbaz

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Summer Student 2022: Toba Shahbaz

Development and validation of animal free in vitro lung-immune cell interactions model called ImmuPHAGE

Supervisor name and institution: Dr Nilab Haydare, University of Hertfordshire

Project summary:

Alveolar macrophages are immune cells found in a specific lung region called alveoli – small air bags with thin walls that allow oxygen to enter the blood. They play an important role in maintenance of healthy lungs, as well as are the first line of defence against diseases. They are involved in development of many lung diseases, as well as they contribute to the lung recovery.

ImmoPHAGE is an in vitro model that resembles human alveolar macrophages. This model is used for toxicity studies, as well as drug development. Currently, ImmuPHAGE is not fully animal free, as cells are grown with animal-derived products, such as foetal bovine serum.

The aim of my project is to make this model fully human relevant to be applied in wide range of respiratory toxicity studies.

Better, human relevant, standardised in vitro models to understand macrophage biology in lungs will lead to better understanding of 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 humans.

Animals project will replace: Mice, rats, pigs and dogs

Get to know Toba…

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

I am a second-year Pharmaceutical Science student at Hertfordshire University. My love for research stems from the fact that it propels the expansion of scientific knowledge, which in turn lays the groundwork for the development of novel medicines and therapies. Since participating in a lab work experience at the University of Hertfordshire, I’ve grown increasingly interested in research, particularly those using in vitro cell culture techniques. It would be an honour for me to do a summer studentship with Animal Free Research UK. It will aid in the development of a variety of abilities, including practical, research, IT, data collecting, analysis, and academic writing. Working under the guidance of an experienced researcher will allow me to gain a thorough understanding of research technique.

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

This research studentship will assist me in moving closer to my professional objective and performing very well in my third-year project. In the future, I hope to work in the pharmaceutical sector, earn a master’s degree, and contribute to scientific progress. I want to contribute to the discovery of a disease remedy that does not include the use of animals, benefiting many people throughout the world while also protecting the dignity of animals. When I accomplish things that improve the lives of patients, I will consider my job a success.

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

Animal and human models are different, they cannot be used interchangeably in toxicology. The use of animals cannot be utilised as predictive models for humans, hence animal experiments are superfluous and can be exceedingly misleading. Even minor genetic changes can result in dramatically divergent outcomes.

What are your future plans and career aspirations?

I am so curious to explore more in-depth organic chemistry and take further academic study and research.

 

 

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 August 5, 2022 9:38 am

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Summer Student 2022: Artemijs Vasjanovics

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Summer Student 2022: Artemijs Vasjanovics

Investigating heart damage caused by cancer
and anti-cancer drugs

Supervisor name and institution: Dr Margaret Cunningham, University of Strathclyde

Project summary:

Cancer survivors often experience heart complications many years after their chemotherapy due to the irreversible damage cancer drugs inflict upon the heart. Many studies use animal to explore the reasons why this happens, however in a move away from the use of animals, researchers have established a 3D human heart cell model which ‘beats’ in the dish and contains all the essential cells of the heart.
There have been pilot studies that have used this model and tested biological activities to detect mechanisms of toxicity in response to cancer treatments, however growth of this human cell model still relies upon some animal products as nutrients to keep the cells alive.

In my summer project, I will use animal free products to re-establish the human heart-in-a-dish and compare our animal free system and recapitulate key experiments for comparison with our existing model data sets.

This approach could change the way cardiotoxic screens of drugs are conducted and provide new approaches to guide other researchers seeking to do similar.

Animals project will replace: Rats

Get to know Artemijs…

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

I see this project as a tremendous opportunity to ‘set the first stone’ in my career the right way. The extent to which research is dependent on animals is truly worrying for me and I see this project as a way to help us to start changing course to a different ethical ambiguity-free way of doing science.

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

Learning a completely new approach to conducting research without using animals or animal-based products, doesn’t get introduced to us during our studies in the university and learning not only these principles but also getting hands-on experience with the technologies that allow us to peruse this approach would undoubtedly leave in the imprint on one’s mind.

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

I am very passionate about my degree, but when I get asked about what exactly my job entails, I always get looks of horror when I describe how new drugs and therapies are tested. There is a very apparent societal stigma when it comes to experimentation on animals and it’s there for a good reason. Other considerations that one might have been linked with the efficiency of the whole system and the way we screen for new drugs, since you can’t really automate in vivo experimentation, but by introducing human relevant models we could potentially vastly expand our screening capabilities.

How does your project fit in with your degree?

As an Immunology and Pharmacology student, I see this project as being very relevant to my field of study due to the fact that both of my disciplines struggle with cancer treatment and drug toxicity so this project fits snuggly into the scope of my degree.

What are your future plans and career aspirations?

At this time, I am interested in perusing further education like an MSc or a PhD with the end goal of running my own laboratory. These goals are too far away from me now and everything can get flipped upside down in my life in an instant, but I know that my future in one way or the other will be linked with what I enjoy, which is Biomedical Science.

 

 

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 July 6, 2022 4:02 pm

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Summer Student 2022: Lucille Binninger

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Summer Student 2022: Lucille Binninger

Characterising an animal free method to create human neuron-like cells to study brain development

Supervisor name and institution: Emily-Rose Martin, University of Exeter

Project summary:

Neurons are one of the major cell types in the brain, forming networks of connections to process information. There are many different types of neurons and they are all produced from the same stem cells during early brain development – this process is called neuronal differentiation.

Neurons can differentiate into excitatory or inhibitory neurons. Excitatory neurons increase the activity of neurons they form connections with, whereas inhibitory neurons decrease the activity of neurons they form connections with. People with Autism Spectrum Disorder often have an  imbalance of excitatory and inhibitory neurons within their brain, and this may be due to mutations in certain genes that control neuronal differentiation.

Scientists have successfully grown different types of human neurons; however, the supply of these neurons is limited, and they stop growing once they have matured.

The main aim of my project is to establish a new method of differentiating neuron-like cells into mature excitatory neurons without using any animal-derived materials.

Animals project will replace: Mice, rats and monkeys

Get to know Lucille…

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

I saw this studentship as an opportunity to get more laboratory experience while contributing to animal free research. It will encourage me to practice essential techniques and improve my scientific communication skills. Equally, being part of a laboratory team and undertaking the Summer School is a great chance to meet fellow like minded people and create a valuable network for the future.

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

First of all, it will allow me to gain additional laboratory experience that I have not been able to get due to the pandemic. The programme will therefore encourage me to perfect key laboratory skills such as tissue culture, qPCR and RNA extraction which I will be able to use during my research Masters. Additionally, the knowledge I will acquire during the project and through interactions with my fellow laboratory team members will be very valuable for my future research. Most importantly, however, it will teach me ways to overcome the use of animals and animal products in my experiments which I will be able to use in the future to support animal free research.

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

Over the course of my studies, I have come to realise that scientific discoveries using animals cannot be easily translated to humans. In particular when studying the brain, any new insights gathered from studies done on animals can only have a limited impact on broadening our understanding of the human brain given its more elaborate complexity. In addition, I support the global efforts of sustainability and do not believe that experimenting on animals, especially given technological advances that could be leverage to replace them, should be a part of a more sustainable future.

How does your project fit in with your degree?

I just finished my degree in Medical Sciences (Neurosciences) and am therefore grateful to get further laboratory experience in the field of neurosciences. This project has already allowed me to learn a lot about neuronal cells and their role in development while also allowing me to apply knowledge that I have gained from my studies.

What are your future plans and career aspirations?

As a next step in my career, I am doing a research Masters in the field of neurosciences, in particular further investigating neurodevelopmental disorders. Following this, I would aspire to get funding for a Ph.D. studentship in order to pursue my interest in neurosciences – focused research while reducing the use of animals in this field.

 

 

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 July 6, 2022 3:50 pm

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Summer Student 2022: Heidi Lloyd-Williams

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Summer Student 2022: Heidi Lloyd-Williams

Optimising conditions for neurons using machine learning to study neurodevelopmental diseases

Supervisor name and institution: Dr Anton Nikolaev, University of Sheffield

Project summary:

Currently, neurodevelopmental diseases are mostly studied using animals. The use of patient-derived stem cells to create a human relevant model will reduce the use of animals in the field of neurodevelopmental disorders. However, one limitation of such models is that cultured neurons form random neural circuits – this is particulary a problem for neurodevelopmental disorders such as epilepsy in which the finely tuned balance of connections between neurons plays an important role. This limitation is the main reason why stem cell-derived neuronal circuits cannot be used as an adequate model for neurodevelopmental disorders.

The overall goal of my project is to develop technology of building neural circuits with defined architecture for better understanding of neurodevelopmental diseases such as epilepsy. To achieve this I am developing an platform that pick and place individual neurons in specific positions, make them grow and differentiate in defined directions and regulate the interactions between them.

Animals project will replace: Mice and zebrafish

Get to know Heidi…

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

I feel strongly about ending the suffering of animals that are used in scientific research and want to contribute to help achieve this.

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

It will be a great experience working in a lab for the summer to develop a new technology. I will be able to understand thoroughly the process of carrying out a research project which is essential for this career. The project will also help me understand the innovative ways we can do research without the use of animals.

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

Last year, I made the decision to be vegan because of the unnecessary cruelty that animals incur in the food industry. I apply the same philosophy to research. Often, there are alternatives to these cruel experiments and that is why committing to developing these methods further is essential.

How does your project fit in with your degree?

The project will help exercise my laboratory skills and neuroscience/developmental biology knowledge.

What are your future plans and career aspirations?

After finishing my degree I hope to do a masters and PhD to further research neurodegenerative diseases using animal free methods.

 

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 July 6, 2022 3:41 pm

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