This week’s Science First highlights the work of Ali Keshavaz, a 2018-19 recipient of the International Foundation for Ethical Research (IFER) Graduate Fellowship for Alternatives to the Use of Animals in Science. Thanks to your generosity, NAVS is able to provide an annual grant to IFER that, this year, is helping to fund five exciting research projects, including Ali’s.
Ali is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Texas Tech University Health Science Center. His research involves modeling a heart condition which is induced by a disease of the lung vasculature called pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). In the condition, blood vessels in the lungs become narrower, making it more challenging for the heart to move blood to the lungs.
Animals models are traditionally used in this line of research. “For developing pulmonary arterial hypertension models, animals are treated with toxins or held in chambers with a reduced oxygen supply,” Ali noted. “Both chemical ingestion and hypoxic housing inflict pain and stress on the animals.”
To overcome this issue and to better understand the molecular mechanisms behind PAH, Ali is modeling the condition in a human-relevant tissue chip that supports the growth of heart cells and lung blood vessel cells. He is hopeful that his research will reduce reliance on animal models in this field, stating “Since in this non-animal model we will use human cells, it will replace the animals that are used in studying the biology and therapies for PAH.” The model will be used to study many different aspects of the disease where animals have traditionally been used and has applications in other related areas of study.
Since accepting the IFER fellowship, Ali has had the opportunity to share his research with others in the scientific community and recently presented his project at the Biomedical Engineering Society meeting in Georgia, where he received positive feedback from fellow researchers. He plans to graduate in 2020 and further his career in academia or in a pharmaceutical company and pursue using non-animal models.
Ali is thankful to have support from IFER for his research. “The amount of support is enough to help me progress in the project….this award increased my motivation remarkably and helps me to build my career,” he stated.