Monique Janssens (personal account): Why we need the Transition towards Animal-free Innovations
Why is there a Transition towards Animal-free Innovations, while we have the 3Rs, including Replacement? Well, there is a difference. Animal experiments should no longer be the golden standard of reference. We should not ask: Is this animal-free method good enough to replace animal experiments? But: What is the research question, and how do I get the best answer, preferably without animals? I know that many researchers are doing this already. But we can do even more! It’s also about involving the full chain of parties, including patients, financers, legislators and companies. That is why the transition movement works with interdisciplinary networks and Helpathons. The transition helps to innovate, to accelerate and to implement. At the same time, there is no need to throw the 3Rs overboard. Actually, we owe applying them to the lab animals of today. But by innovating we can develop even more new practices in research and education that bring about better results for science in less time and often with less costs. Without using animals.
FirstbaseBIO - human brain organoids for studying neurological diseases
Human neurological diseases are still poorly understood, amongst others because animals are used as a model for the human brain. A way to overcome this problem is to mimic human brain functioning in a dish with organoids. FirstbaseBIO is developing off-the-shelf brain organoids on which neurological diseases can be studied. This 3D platform will be formed by reprogrammed human cells from easily accessible sources, for example urine, skin, or mucosa. The proof of-concept brain organoids will be those from patients who are suffering from adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD), a rare, incurable brain disease that occurs primarily in young boys and is often fatal. With the brain organoid platform, possible medicinal treatments for ALD can be effectively optimised. FirstbaseBIO was nominated for the Venture Challenge 2021 for their development of human brain organoids to study neurological diseases.
GUTS BV - small intestine-on-a-chip and advanced computational analysis for compound and protein screening
GUTS BV is a contract research organization offering its 3-dimensional state-of-the-art small intestinal in vitro model in combination with custom computational analysis approaches. The small intestinal model was developed during Dr. Paul Jochems PhD research at Utrecht University in the group of Prof. Roos Masereeuw. In comparison to the current gold standard (Transwell model), they show improvement in cell differentiation (all major specialized cell types present), physiological structure (3D tube- and villi-like structures) and a functional epithelial barrier. After acquiring experimental data from this model computational analysis approaches are used to score and compare measured compounds for all tested biological parameters at once. The combined effort of improved in vitro modelling and data analysis is believed to result in an enhanced preclinical predictability. GUTS BV was nominated for the Venture Challenge 2021 for their development of an intestinal model combined with advanced computational analysis for protein and chemical compound screening. Research papers: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0887233318307811 https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/12/9/2782/htm https://www.nature.com/articles/s41538-020-00082-z LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/71016128/
Avatar Zoo - teaching animal anatomy using virtual reality
Animals are essential to train the next generation of scientists understand diseases and develop treatments for humans as well as animals. Therefore, animals are used for educational purposes. Technologies such as Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality can be employed to reduce the number of animals in the future. Prof. Dr. Daniela Salvatori is working on the development of 'Avatar Zoo' together with UMCU and IT. Live animals are replaced by holographic 3D in this flexible platform. With these holograms one is able to study the anatomical, physiological and pathological systems and processes of all kinds of animals. Avatar Zoo won the Venture Challenge 2021 for the development of virtual reality models that can be used for anatomy classes and practical training.
SMART OoC platform
The SMART Organ-on-Chip project aims to bring Organ-on-Chip technology to the next level, out of the pioneering labs to industrial applications. NWO awarded 4.8 million euro to a large and diverse consortium of universities, companies, research institutes and foundations, brought together by hDMT (Dutch Organ-on-Chip Consortium), that will together develop standardized Organ-on-Chip models. These models will be made to fit the scale and quality that pharmaceutical companies need to use them for development of novel drugs, with better science and less animal use as a result. The project will kick off in autumn 2021. More information on the project will follow in the course of 2021.
Human neuronal cell models for in vitro neurotoxicity screening and seizure liability assessment
Anke Tukker was a PhD candidate in the Neurotoxicology Research group of Dr. Remco Westerink at the Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences at Utrecht University. Dr Westerink’s research group investigates the mechanisms of action of toxic substances on a cellular and molecular level using in vitro systems. Anke's project aimed to develop a human induced pluripotent stem cell (hiPSC)-derived neuronal model for in vitro neurotoxicity screening and seizure liability assessment. Using micro-electrode arrays (MEAs), she showed that these models mimic in vivo neuronal network activity. When these hiPSC-derived neurons are mixed with hiPSC-derived astrocytes, they can be used for in vitro seizure liability assessment. Comparing these data with data obtained from the current used model of ex vivo rodent cortical cultures, she found that these human cells outperform the rodent model. Here research thus contributes towards animal-free neurotoxicity testing. Anke Tukker has won the public vote of the Hugo van Poelgeest prize 2020 for her research on human neuronal cell models for in vitro neurotoxicity screening and seizure liability assessment. Neurotoxicology Research Group, IRAS, Utrecht University: https://ntx.iras.uu.nl/NTX_at_Iras
Human pluripotent stem cell derived cardiomyocytes for disease modelling and drug discovery
Berend van Meer did his PhD research in the research group of prof. Christine Mummery at the department of Anatomy and Embryology of the Leiden University Medical Center. In this group, human pluripotent stem cell derived (Organ-on-Chip) models are being developed, mostly cardiovascular models. The work of Berend aimed to understand how well these stem cell based cardiac models can predict the effect of (well-known) drug therapies in patients. Importantly, the outcomes of the experiments were compared to very similar measurements in rabbit heart muscle cells. And while animal models predicted less than 70% correctly, the human stem cell based models predicted almost 80% of the expected effects correctly. The research contributes to understanding the relevance of stem cell based models and strengthens the confidence regulators and pharmaceutical companies have in such models as animal alternatives in the drug development pipeline. Berend van Meer has won the Hugo van Poelgeest prize 2020 for his research on human pluripotent stem cell derived cardiomyocytes for disease modelling and drug discovery. Christine Mummery's lab on Heart on Chip, Disease modeling and toxicity: https://www.lumc.nl/org/anatomie-embryologie/research/902040935402533/
Cartilage-on-a-chip for studying joint degenerative diseases
Carlo Alberto Paggi is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Twente in the research group of Prof. Marcel Karperien and Prof. Séverine Le Gac. Karperien’s lab focus on the biological aspects of osteoarthritic research while Le Gac’s specialize in organ-on-chip development. The project of Carlo Alberto is developing a joint-on-chip platform to create a reliable in vitro model to study disease progression in osteo- or rheumatoid arthritis. The model combines different organ-on-chips aimed at replicating each a tissue around the joint such as cartilage, bone and ligaments. This new technology focuses on better reproducing human models and at substituting the use of animal models for drug research. If you want to know something more about the project and the groups, you can follow the link in the video. Carlo Paggi was nominated for the Hugo van Poelgeest prize for his research on a cartilage-on-a-chip model to study joint degenerative diseases Karperien’s lab of Developmental Bioengineering: https://www.utwente.nl/en/tnw/dbe/ Le Gac’s lab of Applied Microfluidics for BioEngineering Research: http://www.severinelegac.com/ Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/carlo-alberto-paggi-76500b135/
TPI.tv: improving science through animal-free innovations and research
Introducing TPI.tv : a video platform by experts striving to improve science through animal-free innovations and research.
Daniela Salvatori: TPI Utrecht
Prof. dr. Daniela Salvatori, chair of TPI Utrecht, presents the aims of the local TPI group and invites all who want to share their ideas or questions on the transition towards animal-free innovations to get in touch via uu.nl/tpi.
Elly Hol (UMC Utrecht): possibilities for neuroscience
Prof. dr. Elly Hol (neuroscientist) talks about the opportunities for conducting animal-free research in Utrecht. She explains why it is necessary to use animal models next to cell-based models, for example for her Alzheimer research. More info at https://www.umcutrecht.nl/en/research/center/brain-center , http://translationalneuroscience.nl , http://www.ellyhollab.eu .
Katja Wolthers (Amsterdam UMC) - virus research in human models: let's show some guts!
To study viruses that make people sick, we often use laboratory animals. However, virus infections in animals are different than in humans. New 3D culture models or 'organoids', which look like human organs in a petri dish, offer a unique opportunity to investigate how viruses enter the human body and cause disease. Our research focuses on enteroviruses such as polio. Due to vaccination, polio is rare, but other enteroviruses are increasingly a threat to young children and patients with impaired immune defenses. There are no medications available, because knowledge about infections with enteroviruses is limited. In our research we use organoids to see how enteroviruses enter the human body and by which means you can prevent that, without the use of laboratory animals. With this project we want to show that our technique can replace the use of laboratory animals in virus research.