Meet the Humane Science “Class of 2019”

Previous NAVS/IFER-funded researcher Georgina Harris

Continuing our longstanding investment in ending the exploitation of animals used in science, NAVS and the International Foundation for Ethical Research (IFER) are pleased to announce the recipients of the 2018-2019 Graduate Fellowships for Alternatives to the Use of Animals in Science. These fellowships recognize and support outstanding graduate students who are working to promote the advancement of humane methodologies that can spare animal suffering.

Thanks to your generosity and commitment to advancing science without harming animals, this year, fellowships have been awarded to fund four new graduate student projects and the renewal of one previously-awarded project.

The four new Graduate Fellowship recipients are:

Jeremy Velazquez 
Arizona State University

Jeremy’s project has the potential to reduce dependence on animal experiments for drug toxicity studies and research pertaining to liver development and disease. It aims to generate patient-specific liver organoid models to study drug metabolism and model liver disease. In this proposal, liver organoids created from human-induced pluripotent stem cells will be thoroughly characterized to ensure they are producing the proteins required for proper liver function. The organoids will also be tested to see if they can detect drug toxicity and will be used to examine pathological conditions associated with the liver to screen for potential therapies.

Joost Brinks 
Leiden University Medical Center

By using human-relevant cells to study central serous chorioretinopathy (CSC), Joost will replace the need for ocular animal models to generate data which best translates to human patients with this vision-threatening eye disease. Joost’s project seeks to develop an in vitro model to study CSC. It is known that corticosteroids increase the risk of developing this condition, but the mechanism for how this occurs remains elusive. Blood vessel cells derived from patient-induced pluripotent stem cells will be examined for their responses to pathogenic levels of corticosteroids. Results from this study will help researchers better understand how CSC develops and identify new strategies for treatment.

Ingrid Knarston 
University of Melbourne/Murdoch Children’s Research Institute

Ingrid’s project will both reduce the use of mutant mouse models to study genes implicated in disorders of sex development and will also establish a protocol for testis organoid development that does not rely on animal-derived products. Ingrid will be using human-induced pluripotent stem cells to generate testis organoids to study disorders of sex development. While Ingrid’s lab has already successfully generated testis organoids, the reagents used during the process relied on animal-derived products. This current research proposal seeks to optimize the differentiation protocol to generate testis organoids without using animal-derived products and to generate an alternative to using animal-derived antibodies.

Ali Keshavaz 
Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center

Ali’s project has the potential to significantly reduce the number of animals used in pulmonary arterial hypertension research and related areas of study. It aims to model a heart condition which is induced by a disease of the lung vasculature called pulmonary arterial hypertension. In this condition, blood vessels in the lungs become narrower, making it more challenging for the heart to move blood to the lungs, which can lead to irreversible enlargement of the heart and patient death. This project seeks to better understand the molecular mechanism behind this disorder by modeling it in a tissue chip which supports the growth of heart cells and lung blood vessel cells. Ali will study the communication between these cell types, examine the effect of sex hormones on the condition as well as the effect of potential therapies.

Congratulations to this year’s Graduate Fellowship recipients—and thank you to all of the graduate students who submitted applications.

This entry was posted in News on October 19, 2018.
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