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Summer Student 2022: Seyta Diop

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