This week’s Science First highlights the work of Joost Brinks, recipient of the International Foundation for Ethical Research (IFER) Graduate Fellowship for Alternatives to the Use of Animals in Science. Thanks to the generosity of NAVS supporters like you, we are able to provide an annual grant to IFER that, this year, is helping to fund Joost’s project.
We recently had the opportunity to touch base with Joost, whose project involves developing a cell-based model to study a vision-threatening eye disease in a human-relevant, animal-free way. The project is currently in its first year of funding.
Although eye disease research is often performed in animal models, due in part to the complex anatomy of the eye and accessibility of animal models, Joost is using a human cell-based model in his studies.
“Thanks to developments in the field of cell biology and technological improvements in the laboratory,” Joost noted, “it becomes increasingly more feasible to simulate the complex anatomy and biology of the eye in cell-based models.”
Joost is working with cells from post-mortem human donor eyes. He is also attempting to generate eye-specific cells from induced pluripotent stem cells derived from the blood of healthy individuals and patients.
“Both techniques have the advantage of working in a species-specific manner, completely avoiding the need to use any animal-derived samples,” he said.
Some of Joost’s work using the human-relevant model was recently published in Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences. He compared the ways the cells in his model responded to certain hormones to available data from animal models and observed very different effects. This may be attributed to differences between species, emphasizing the importance of working with a human-relevant model.
Joost is optimistic about the direction his project is taking, and about the ability of animal-free alternatives, such as his, to reduce, refine and replace animal use in scientific experimentation. He is hoping that showing success with his human-relevant model may help stimulate others to consider animal-free approaches.
“I do believe that a shift from animal models to human-based models will greatly improve the efficiency of fundamental research in general,” Joost said. “Especially with current developments in techniques of cell culture and stem cell technology, such a shift is simply a matter of time.”
Joost is also thankful to have support from IFER for his research.
“Funding is essential for researchers to setup or continue experimental studies,” he noted. “It is currently still relatively hard to acquire funding for projects that specifically aim to reduce reliance on animal models, as this is not specified for most grant calls. We are very grateful that foundations like IFER specifically support animal-free research, as this may aid in the shift from animal-models to human-based models, which is beneficial for both animal welfare and eventually research efficiency.”
NAVS wishes Joost continued success in his project and is thankful for his efforts to advance science without harming animals. We’re honored to count Joost among the growing number of IFER fellowship recipients who are leading the next generation of humane scientists.
Please click here to learn more about Joost’s project.
Help NAVS and IFER support smarter science—such as Joost’s—that advances discovery, innovation and human-relevant solutions without the use of harmful, flawed and costly animal experiments.