By funding the International Foundation for Ethical Research (IFER) Graduate Fellowship Program for Alternatives to the Use of Animals in Science, NAVS supports young investigators who are developing innovative, non-animal alternatives that have the potential to replace animal use in science.
Last month, NAVS/IFER Science Advisors John Harbell (pictured on the right in the above photo) and Pam Osenkowski (center) had the opportunity to visit the laboratory of one of our fellowship recipients, Jean Liou (left), who is completing her Ph.D. work at the University of Pittsburgh.
Jean has been a recipient of IFER’s Graduate Fellowship for three years and recently completed her thesis work that was supported by your donations.
Her project involved developing a three-dimensional cell-based model to better understand osteoarthritis, a very common degenerative joint disease for which there is still no cure or effective preventative medication. Jean has attributed this to “the poor physiological congruence between animal models and humans during drug testing.”
Jean and her lab colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh, under the mentorship of Dr. Rocky Tuan, have been developing an in vitro human stem cell-based, three-dimensional model that mimics the anatomic and physiological characteristics of the bone/cartilage interface, the main site of tissue degeneration in osteoarthritis.
During our visit, we had an opportunity to tour Jean’s cutting-edge lab and learn more about the bioreactor she developed to culture bone and cartilage microtissue to conduct her studies. She described the challenges she faced with her project and how she overcame them.
The results of Jean’s research project have been submitted for publication in Tissue Engineering, which will enable the scientific community to learn more about an animal-free model that can be used for osteoarthritis research. This is critical, given that animal models used in osteoarthritis studies, in addition to being very expensive, do not accurately mimic the physiological anatomy and mechanics of human joints.
NAVS wishes Jean continued success as she wraps up her Ph.D. work and beyond and is thankful for her efforts to advance science without harming animals. We’re honored to count Jean among the growing number of IFER fellowship recipients who are leading the next generation of humane scientists.