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Summer Student 2019: Katherine Bexley

Summer Student 2019: Katherine Bexley

Supervised by Dr David Ansell at the University of Manchester, Katherine will use human skin to investigate if she can speed up and improve the repair of human skin wounds and help replace experiments on mice and pigs in skin research.

The NHS spends approximately £5 billion each year treating wounds, and this is set to rise with an ageing population. Delayed wound healing is a big problem for elderly and diabetic people. Wounds that fail to close quickly can become infected, and where treatment does not work, can sadly lead to amputation. Most therapies only involve changing bandages and preventing infection – so there is a real need for drugs that can improve and speed up wound healing in patients.

Animal skin is very different to human skin (humans are far less hairy than most mammals!) and human wounds can heal in a different way to animal wounds. Unfortunately, skin repair research often involves injuring live animals. Pigs and mice can be inflicted with multiple full-thickness wounds (down to the fat, muscle or bone) to see how their injuries heal over time. Sometimes infections are introduced to adversely affect wound healing, causing the animals to further suffer.

In her summer research project, Katherine will use human skin removed during surgery that would normally be thrown away to investigate if she can make wounds heal faster or with less scarring. She will do this by keeping the human skin alive in a dish using only human-derived materials, making wounds to it and then monitoring how well each wound heals after adding different drugs.

Katherine’s research will lead to more knowledge about how wounds normally heal and may find a way to improve the treatment of skin injuries – helping patients with wounds that don’t heal properly. By replacing experiments on animals, her research may better predict which drugs will work in humans.

My summer research project offers the incredible opportunity to advance my research skills while acting to develop and promote ethical scientific practice. As an ethical vegan, I believe scientific research should be for the betterment of all in society, this includes the animals with which we share our planet.

The use of animals in research – inflicting pain on them or exploiting their bodies – has caused me to question my desire to pursue a research career, yet I believe that biological research is where the answers to humanity’s core issues lie. My summer research project offers the opportunity to combine this view in one ethical direction, improving the lives and knowledge of humans without detriment to animals and our planet.

Participating in this studentship, particularly attending the summer school, will allow me to develop the knowledge and skills needed to rethink and redesign existing research methods to eliminate animals. These will act as a foundation to a research career where constructing novel research methods can allow the mechanisms of biology that fascinate me to be studied ethically.

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