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Summer Student 2021: Amir Fard

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.


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Page last modified on December 15, 2021 3:53 pm