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Summer Student 2022: Michael Dummigan

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Summer Student 2022: Michael Dummigan

Developing a tool to better categorise types of breast cancer for better prediction & personalised treatments

Supervisor name and institution: Dr Nicholas Rattray, University of Strathclyde

Project summary:

Breast cancer is a leading cause of cancer death in females and accounts for 15% of all cancer cases in the UK. Specific types of breast cancer which cannot be detected with traditional methods are difficult to diagnose in the early stage. However, cutting-edge sequencing tools to better identify genes and DNA mutations present an opportunity to develop new methods of early-stage detection by improving the way we categorize breast cancer.

More specific categorizations would allow for a more personalized approach to drug treatment and screening. In my project, I will use the available clinical data from existing breast cancer patients to investigate how different types of the disease contribute to disease severity and patient outcome.

Animals project will replace: Mice, rats and zebrafish

Get to know Michael…

In my off time, I enjoy skateboarding, mountain biking, going to the gym, gaming, reading, and playing pool. I love to visit the park near where my parents stay to feed the ducks, swans, and geese, as these are my favourite animals.

I believe this summer studentship will provide the direction I need in my future career as a scientist. A lot of modern research still relies heavily on the suffering of animals and in my career, I will strive to never contribute to this side of the industry. I think Bioinformatic research is the way forward for not only more humane research, but more accurate and precise research.

I have never agreed with the use of animals in research, and although things have improved in the last quarter century, a lot still needs to change. I believe that if we as a community work together, we can stop the unjust suffering of defenceless creatures and create a better world for future generations.

The project I am undertaking is actually very different from my current course work. I love the idea of this, as it means I will be developing essential skills outside of my core degree, which will help me with my future endeavours. I am currently unsure of what exact career I would like to pursue, but I am enjoying my pharmacology course and am interested in drug development.

 

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 2:30 pm

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Summer Student 2022: Patricia Bailey

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Summer Student 2022: Patricia Bailey

Validating a dementia cell-based model to study inflammation

Supervisor name and institution: Dr Patricia Ragazzon, Keele University

Project summary:

Recent research seems to point that several types of dementias, such as Alzheimer’s disease, are affected by several factors including stress, diet, and environment. As it stands today, most of Alzheimer’s disease research has used animals including mice, rats and monkeys.

In my project, I will validate a human cell-based model to study monitor cellular stress and their effect on some characteristics of dementia. The cells will be fed a commercial animal free food solution, BrainPhys and will be treated with retinoic acid to make them to form neuron-like cells. A compound will be added to stimulate the formation of stress and some key aspects of dementia.

I will monitor how the cells cope with these changes, view if the cells can reduce this stress and if this would have an effect in the biomarkers of dementia. This validated animal free model can be used to study stress and inflammation with a focus on dementia, and will allow patient-oriented Alzheimer’s disease research in human cell systems.

Animals project will replace: Mice and rats

Get to know Patricia…

I am a mature student currently in my second year of Biomedical Science at Keele University. I have worked in pharmacy since I was 21 until I felt I needed more of a challenge and decided to return to education. I enrolled in an Access to Higher Education (Science) course and passed with all distinctions and was accepted to study Pharmacy at Keele.

I have always had a strong interest in medical and health science and animal testing is, historically, an important part of that field. The reasons for this are sound, in that in certain cases we cannot replicate responses we are looking for outside of animal or human tissues. Although research is advancing and better computer models and animal alternatives are becoming available, there is still much research to be done in this area.

As a child I grew up surrounded by animals and with the huge campaigns to stop animal testing for cosmetics and smoking. This left a huge imprint on me and to this day I hate to see an animal suffer. We have an ethical obligation to find as many viable alternatives to animal testing as we can to facilitate future research and in order to do that, we need to advance our research in animal free models.

This studentship will not only give me experience of working in a lab that is actively trying to find alternatives to animal testing but will also allow me the chance to work in a professional lab alongside qualified scientists. I will have the opportunity to develop practical skills with guidance from my colleagues and to understand more about the basic laboratory practices. Once I have completed my BSc I intend to continue onto a research Masters and the skills I will have the opportunity to develop here will be invaluable.

 

 

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 2:22 pm

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Summer Student 2022: Seyta Diop

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Summer Student 2022: Seyta Diop

A novel fruit-based cell culture model: a standardised alternative to animal-derived systems

Supervisor name and institution: Dr David Chau, University College London

Project summary:

With the increasing development of new chemicals and medicines, there is an urgent need to establish whether they are harmful or beneficial to humans. Cell culture, the novel technique of growing cells to represent a specific tissue or organ of the human body, is considered an integral aspect in this assessment.

However, a key disadvantage of this technique is that it is often based on the growth of a single layer of cells and not representative of the 3D environment of an actual human organ. In order to mimic the natural tissue more truly, cells are required to be grown on a scaffold (or supporting framework) but these are often derived from animals or are fully synthetic – so not truly mimicking living tissue.

My project aims to assess the feasibility of using the membrane derived from fruit such as lychee and citrus, as a possible scaffold material. These membranes – the white, transparent part of the fruit – are naturally derived materials that can be easily manipulated into layers and developed into representative tissues of the human body such as skin via the support of the growth of these human cells.

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

Get to know Seyta…

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

Prior to my recent exposure to basic research during my research project, I was unaware of the true extent of animal use within biomedical research. It was shocking to learn how many of the common reagents and protocols used in modern labs are developed directly from animal products. This expands further into pre-clinical studies which are heavily dependent on animals and their subsequent euthanasia. It is widely accepted that this is preferred, even necessary for the advancement of medical science. This studentship with Animal Free Research UK will be a fantastic opportunity to prove otherwise and pave the way for future researchers to do the same. I hope to see development towards making animal free research the gold standard.

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

Animal Free Research UK have been pioneers in this field with their research on human organoids, and their ambition to work towards a completely animal free research industry. Doing the studentship would allow me to participate in this cutting-edge research and develop knowledge that can advance the industry as a whole. This will put me in good stead to implement the improved practices and protocols I learn here in future research and share this knowledge forward to my peers.

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

A key barrier to the relevance of pre-clinical research is the use of animals which always show variance from humans, sometimes in ways we cannot anticipate. I firmly believe that animal free research could significantly reduce the risk to those willing to volunteer and it is imperative that every effort is made to this end. The use of human derived products, such as serum, are suitable and sustainable alternatives that could help refine pre-clinical research to offer significant improvements on clinical trial outcomes. Moreover, having rigorous, human-relevant testing in vivo might garner more trust in historically underrepresented groups and encourage people to participate in clinical trials later on. As a black woman, I am passionate about seeing more diversity in researchers and research participants. Diversity enriches the quality of studies and produces results applicable to all communities

How does your project fit in with your degree?

As someone actively curious, research has always appealed to me as a way to explore unknown areas within biomedicine. This led to me to choose a degree that combines these interests with an aspiration to drive innovation in medicine and healthcare.

What are your future plans and career aspirations?

I hope to pursue a career in healthcare management, specifically research innovation.

I strongly believe that gaining first-hand experience in research will put me in the best position to understand the demands and limitations of the research process. Many in leadership positions, responsible for deciding which research is prioritised and how it is conducted, have not had such experience and this is reflected in their perspectives and weakens inter-disciplinary collaborations. I want to help transform the way in which we conduct research and build trust with underrepresented groups to alleviate some of their concerns and encourage their participation in 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 July 6, 2022 2:15 pm

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Summer Student 2022: Rita Correia

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Summer Student 2022: Rita Correia

Development of hydrogel-based scaffolds for new
drug delivery systems

Supervisor name and institution: Dr Adam Celiz, Imperial College London

Project summary:

Hydrogels are highly hydrated mesh networks of natural or synthetic macromolecules. This class of materials are often used for drug delivery in the biomedical field as they are versatile and compatible with the human body, while also protecting the drug from deterioration.

However, there are limits to the application of hydrogels for drug delivery, as it is hard to control drug absorption rates. Fabricating smart hydrogels to enable the release of drugs upon specific instructions represents a unique possibility for the controlled release of drugs in desired conditions. For instance, hydrogels can be designed to release drugs under mechanical stimulation (e.g. compression or high stress), or temperature variation.

In my project, I will develop an hydrogel scaffold that can be implanted into the body and release drugs under determined mechanical stimulation. This is a multidisciplinary project allowing me to develop skills in wet lab and organic chemistry, mechanical characterization of materials, and drug release.

Animals project will replace: Mice and rats.

Get to know Rita…

I am Portuguese and have always been interested in bioengineering.

I am interested in vitro models for drug screening for the fact that this stops animal testing and provides more reliable results, which is why I chose to focus on this in my project over the summer.

The Summer Student Programme will help me on my journey to get a PhD in this area of research, helping me continue my animal free research career, which is super important to me as I have always been an apologist for animals and that is why I am vegan.

This project is part of tissue engineering, which is hopefully what I will complete my masters on.

 

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 1:56 pm

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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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