The director of the FRAME Alternatives Laboratory was delighted to welcome the Vice Chancellor of Nottingham University to the specialist lab which is based at the university’s medical school.
Dr Andy Bennett, director of the FRAME Alternatives Laboratory, explained to Professor Shearer West the important work the Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments does to promote the Three Rs (Replacement, Reduction & Refinement) as a way forward for reducing animal experimentation.
This approach focuses on minimising the number of animals used in biomedical research, replacing experimentation using animals with scientifically proven alternatives that don’t, and refining existing practices to reduce suffering.
FRAME’s ultimate aim is the elimination of the need to use laboratory animals in any kind of medical or scientific procedures.
Professor West, who was appointed VC of Nottingham University in October 2017, heard presentations about some of the work the FRAME Alternatives Laboratory is carrying out in collaboration with various university departments.
The visit started with a tour of FRAME’s tissue cell culture laboratory.
Dr Bennett said: “We are extremely proud of this facility which was built and jointly funded by FRAME and the University of Nottingham and we are delighted to welcome Professor West here today to explain the important work we are doing to progress our understanding of human diseases, using non-animal experiments – which can be inaccurate and misleading.”
Next, Professor West heard a talk by Kostas Tsintzas, Associate Professor of Human Physiology at Nottingham University’s Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences.
He delivered an interesting insight into the work FRAME is doing with regards to muscular skeletal ageing, by taking tissue from obese people and comparing it with how cells from people with a healthy weight behave.
Professor West went on to hear about liver health disorders from Dr Jane Grove, Assistant Professor in the Hepatology Group in the NIHR Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre.
Dr Grove explained the work FRAME was doing in collaboration with the university to prove the advantages of building computational and cell culture models, rather than using animals in this kind of research.
Dr Grove said: “We discussed the challenges in getting new therapeutics to market and how our research addresses these so new, safe treatments are developed for patients.
“This was a great opportunity to demonstrate how the FRAME lab is a ‘technical expertise hub’ for several projects in the GI and liver disorder theme of NIHR Nottingham BRC.”
Gareth Hathway, Associate Professor of Neuroscience, Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences, explained to the Vice Chancellor the work he was doing to assess how babies feel and react to pain.
Next up was Elisa Tarsitano, a researcher and PhD student at Nottingham University who is working on 3D bioprinting of progenitor liver cells.
She explained her interest in the use of stem cells as a promising tool in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, as well as the development of bioactive scaffolds for tissue engineering applications utilising the bioprinting technique.
The final talk came from Sebastien Serres, Assistant Professor in Metabolic Biochemistry, Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences.
He spoke about his work into combining magnetic resonance (MR) imaging and spectroscopy methods, immunohistochemistry and molecular biology.
During his work at Oxford, he said he used these approaches to investigate cellular metabolism, vascular function and inflammatory processes in animal models.
He added: “Now I want to detect changes in metabolism, using human cells, that can inform us about human diseases and how we can see things using this method that we couldn’t see before.”
Dr Bennett said: “It was a pleasure have the opportunity to explain the importance of FRAME’s work and the long-standing links between FRAME and the University to Professor West.
“I believe she found it interesting and enlightening, especially as we were able to demonstrate what translational human-based research was being carried out.
“By the end of the visit Professor West understood much more about what FRAME is doing and the fact that there are lots of links with both clinical and basic science researchers at the university.”