Local university students receive cruelty-free research grants

By Zoe Fripp

University of Hertfordshire Students Niamh Haslett and Elisa Ali are conducting summer research that could help save lives thanks to Animal Free Research UK

Both students have received nearly £2,000 each in funding this summer towards their animal-free medical research.

Niamh’s research focuses on predicting the effects of new drugs which are known as ‘legal high’s’. She aims to develop a functional, human-relevant model that can predict what effects a new drug will have on the brain when taken without subjecting animals to cruel drug testing. Elisa’s research is being conducted into pulmonary fibrosis. She aims to develop a functional, human-relevant model of lung fibrosis that can be studied in the lab, cruelty-free.

The projects are being funded by Animal Free Research UK, the UK’s leading charity funding animal-free medical research. Their projects were selected for their potential to replace the use of animals in similar experiments. This research forms part of a larger project from the charity, which is funding thirteen more students carrying out compassionate research at universities across the country this summer.

Niamh’s research, overseen by Michelle Botha at the University of Hertfordshire, is focused on better understanding the effects that drugs can have on the human body, made necessary by the rise in popularity and addictive nature of ‘legal highs’ Her model has the potential to help replace animal experiments which are currently used for the identification of psychoactive substances.

Niamh said: “Advances in computational chemistry have made the prediction of a molecule’s biological activity even more accurate and robust. My research project gave me the opportunity to learn how to use this animal replacement tool, improve my research ability and protect animals in the identification of psychoactive drugs.”

Elisa’s research, overseen by Dr Ewelina Hoffman at the University of Hertfordshire, is focused on better understanding lung fibrosis, which is a chronic and irreversible disorder with a difficult prognosis. Scar tissue builds up in the lungs of sufferers, resulting in respiratory symptoms, exercise limitation, poor quality of life, and ultimately death. Elisa’s completely animal-free model of the disease could help researchers to better assess treatments in the future.

Elisa said: “I believe that animal cruelty is unethical, outdated and not necessary to carry out important research. During my summer research project, I have contributed towards building a better future in medicine, by gaining invaluable experience of working with other professional scientists to carry out research that could be used to help improve patient safety and quality of life.”

According to Home Office statistics, nearly 4 million animals in Great Britain were subjected to experiments in 2017. Animal Free Research UK is currently funding research into cancer, chronic pain, brain tumours, diabetes and cardiovascular medical device testing, all without using animals.

To support the work of Animal Free Research UK, and students such as Niamh and Elisa, by donating online at www.animalfreeresearchuk/donate.

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