Through our funding of 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 cruel and ineffective animal experiments.
Earlier this month, NAVS/IFER Science Advisors Pam Osenkowski and Sherry Ward had the opportunity to visit the laboratory of one of our fellowship recipients, Nicholas Brookhouser, who is completing his Ph.D. work at Arizona State University.
Nicholas, a recipient of IFER’s Graduate Fellowship for the past two years, is developing a cell-based model to better understand Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia.
“My project focuses on understanding the role of ApoE variants in the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease using human induced pluripotent stem cell-based approaches,” Nicholas said. “ApoE has been identified as one of the most prominent risk factors for late onset Alzheimer’s disease; however, the mechanism by which this risk is conferred has yet to be identified.”
Depending on the versions of the ApoE gene an individual has, their risk for Alzheimer’s disease varies. To better understand the effect of ApoE variants, Nicholas generates human induced pluripotent stem cells that have different versions of the ApoE gene with no other changes to their genetic background. Then, he differentiates the cells into neurons to determine the influence of ApoE variants on different traits associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
“Overall, the use of pluripotent stem cells allows us to address many experimental questions that would otherwise require numerous animals to examine,” Nicholas noted. “Reliance on animal models in preclinical studies may contribute, in part, to the copious failed clinical trials related to Alzheimer’s therapy…Therefore, I believe a human disease model is necessary to uncover the subtleties of the disease mechanism that may be necessary for therapeutic design.”
During our visit, we had an opportunity to tour Nick’s cutting-edge lab at ASU and to learn more about these cell models. We are pleased with the progress he has been making on this project and the contributions his work is making to the Alzheimer’s disease field.
NAVS wishes Nicholas continued success as he wraps up his Ph.D. work, and we are thankful for his efforts to advance science without harming animals. We’re honored to count Nicholas among the growing number of IFER fellowship recipients who are leading the next generation of humane scientists.