Skip to main content

Summer Student 2021: Fiona Nhi Dang

Summer Student 2021: Fiona Nhi Dang

Development of a computational model to simulate the leading causes of cardiac arrest.

Supervisor name and institution: Dr Mariana Laviola, University of Nottingham

Project summary:

A cardiac arrest is when the heart suddenly stops pumping blood around the body and so the person falls unconscious, unresponsive and stops breathing. There are different causes that can lead to cardiac arrest, related and not to the heart, such as heart attack and severe haemorrhage due to trauma. A heart attack happens when the supply of blood to the heart is suddenly blocked, usually by a blood clot; while severe haemorrhage is the loss of a large amount of blood and is due to trauma. In the UK, 30,000 cardiac arrests occur each year outside of the hospital where resuscitation is attempted, 180 people die from heart attacks each day and only 7.5% of people survive from traumatic cardiac arrest.

The process of cardiac arrest is complex and differs upon the causes that originate it. Different causes of cardiac arrest may need different resuscitation strategies because they act in a different way on the human body. However, the difficulty of conducting clinical trials and the poor translation of animal research into human studies due to fundamental differences in species, leave important gaps in the understanding of cardiac arrest.

Computer modelling is a new research tool that well suits to research in critical illness, since in contrast to animal and human studies, virtual patients are always configurable and reproducible.

In her summer project, Fiona will investigate the physical and biological changes that occur within the body as a result of heart attack and severe haemorrhage using the Interdisciplinary Collaboration in Systems Medicine simulation suite (a computer simulation of pulmonary and cardiovascular systems). Fiona’s project will replace rats, pigs, mice and rabbits, normally used in this field of research. This study will help clinicians to develop tailored and cause-specific resuscitation treatments without experimenting on animals.

Animals project will replace: Pigs and mice.

Watch Fiona’s Summer School presentation…


Get to know Fiona…

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

In my third year studying medicine at the University of Nottingham (UoN), I gained insight into the excitement and dedication that comes with carrying out research projects.

I developed an interest in using methods to replace the use of animals in research by taking part in an oral presentation about 3D printing – I looked into how 3D bioprinting is more reliable in clinical tests for drugs. The exciting 3D projects already being undertaken at Animal Free Research UK showcasing alternative lab techniques gave me the curiosity to apply to the Summer Student Programme. This is a great opportunity for me to consolidate my interests in animal free research and to start a new research study with Dr Marianna Laviola and the Interdisciplinary Collaboration in Systems Medicine (ICSM) team at the University of Nottingham. The project will focus on better understanding of the states of cardiac arrest via computational simulations without the need for using animals.

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

Involving myself in animal free research will be a personal launch-pad for developing my career prospects, as this competitive and prestigious Summer Student Programme is well-recognised for encouraging budding-researchers to pioneer novel methodology. I also look forward to the online Summer School, where I can learn about like-minded students with their novel projects and gain further insight into animal free research.

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

Research without the use of animals, as well as following a vegan lifestyle, are important to me due to my religious values. I was raised a Buddhist and learnt one of the key virtues – Ahimsa – that teaches not to injure and to have respect for all living things. This deepened my sense of identity and unity with animals in realising that being human or animal are just realms of existence for sentient beings. Therefore, it personally feels immoral to exploit animals and their lack of autonomy for the potential (and unreliable) benefit to human development.

What are your future plans and career aspirations?

Regarding the future, I hope to become a strong asset to the NHS in managing and developing ways to address the UK’s ageing population. Cardiac arrest mortality is seen in all demographics but is mostly in the older age groups, where I feel much development will occur to adapt to managing more older patients with chronic conditions and their livelihoods. The UK being one of the few countries at the forefront of adapting to an ageing population; thus, getting involved in this pioneering research with Animal Free Research UK alongside the ICSM team is vocationally and personally incredibly exciting.


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