WILL THE PENNE DROP?
A medical research project at the University of Hertfordshire could lead to the replacement of toxicity testing on animals – by using pasta!
Hitchin’s Animal Free Research UK, the UK’s leading non-animal medical research charity, have unveiled their 2017 Summer Studentship Programme. Three of the fifteen research projects are taking place at the University of Hertfordshire.
Joanitta Akpai, who is studying Pharmacy, is attempting to find the optimal shape and size of pasta on which to grow human cells. Cell culture allows cells to grow from a specific tissue or organ, however, traditionally this has meant growth as a single layer of cells, which does not reflect the natural environment of the organ. Pasta (wheat protein) can help replicate the cells’ natural environment by providing a 3D structural support for cells to grow and to facilitate the flow of oxygen and nutrients thanks to its tubular construction.
The outcome of Joanitta’s project could provide a low cost cell culture model that is representative of functional human organs (e.g., artery, lung and kidney) to replace toxicity testing of new human medicines on animals.
Said Emma Wrafter, Development Director at Animal Free Research UK, “This is a particularly innovative project, with potentially profound implications. As with most of the research that we fund, this is ground breaking work. We are challenging the established order to change their way of thinking and see animal testing for what it is – outmoded and lacking human relevancy. Maybe this project will help the penne to drop!”
The other two students at the University of Hertfordshire, Joy Girgis and Taleen Shakouri, are researching drug testing in lung and brain disease.
Said Emma Wrafter, “We are delighted for Joanitta, Joy, Taleen and the other twelve students on this year’s programme. Our summer studentships give young scientists the opportunity for hands on experience in the lab. As a consequence we hope to embed the importance of animal replacement technology into the minds of scientists at the beginning of their research careers.”
Each 8 week studentship, worth up to £1,940, was awarded through an application and rigorous, competitive selection process. Further details on all of the studentships can be found at:
NOTES TO EDITORS
1. Animal Free Research UK (formerly the Dr Hadwen Trust) is the UK’s leading non-animal medical research charity. Since 1971 the charity has awarded grants to over 200 non-animal medical research projects including: cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, heart and liver disease and diabetes.
2. Over the last five years alone the charity has committed to over £4.8 million worth of animal replacement research projects across the UK at student, PhD and post-doctoral level.
3. For more information, please contact Emma Wrafter on 01462 436819 or at: firstname.lastname@example.org
1. Joanitta Akpai with a selection of pasta
2. Left to right: Joy Girgis, Taleen Shakouri & Joanitta Akpai