FRAME awards Summer Studentships for research into animal alternatives

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FRAME awards Summer Studentships for research into animal alternatives

FRAME has announced the two winners of its Summer Studentship Programme 2019, developed to support undergraduates in undertaking summer research projects relating to the development of alternatives to animal use in research.

The two Studentship award winners are Elentina Gjoni, studying for a BSc degree in Biomedical Sciences at Brunel University London, and Rachele Bacchetti, studying for a BSc in Biomedical Science at the University of Sheffield. As part of the Studentship, they will receive a stipend of £150 per week and up to £750 towards consumables and research costs.

The winning research projects had to have the potential to advance techniques, knowledge or methods that will help lead to the reduction and replacement of animals in research.

Elentina’s project will involve Developing a novel assay to study biofilm formation in Galleria mellonella.

80% of human infections involve microbial biofilms (1), which are bacterial communities that form when bacteria attach to surfaces and are responsible for the majority of hospital-acquired infections. Biofilms are known to be 10-1000 times more resistant to antibiotics than free-flowing bacterial cells. (2)

Currently, in vivo biofilm assays are often performed in large organisms such as mice, rats, and rabbits. This project aims to develop a new in vivo assay to study biofilm formation in the honeycomb moth (Galleria mellonella).

Elentina said: “I am currently undertaking a placement in the microbiology field, which has helped improve my skills and fuel my interest in the laboratory. During this placement, I’ve become competent in carrying out infection assays in Galleria mellonella. This Studentship will allow me to continue my work with Galleria by carrying out novel biofilm formation assays that would help establish Galleria as a suitable model organism and potentially lead to a publication.”

Rachele is to work on the Development of a synthetic skin model to test the efficacy of therapeutic ultrasound in skin healing.

Poor healing is one of the greatest healthcare challenges, as associated risk factors include age, obesity and diabetes. Poor healing can lead to the development of chronic wounds that are extremely painful, and in some cases can lead to limb amputation. In the NHS, 2.2 million chronic wounds were managed in 2012/2013, costing £5.3 billion. (3) Therefore, better understanding and treatments of chronic wounds are important to enhance patient quality of life and reduce healthcare costs.

Rachele said: “One potential therapy being used in my supervisor’s laboratory is the application of high frequency ultrasound to accelerate skin healing. Small scale mouse studies have demonstrated that ultrasound is effective but scoping for optimal parameters would require animal use on a huge scale. Therefore, this project will investigate a potential in vitro 3D model that will replace the use of mice on the investigation stages.”

FRAME Scientific Liaison Officer, Amy Beale, added:

“We are very pleased that, through the FRAME Summer Studentship Programme, we are able to offer the opportunity to further the research experience of both Elentina and Rachele at their current universities.

“FRAME believes in the development of better scientific methods for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment and our aim is the elimination of the need to use laboratory animals in any kind of medical or scientific procedures. As part of this mission, FRAME is committed to educating and supporting research scientists of the future.

“The Summer Studentship projects have the potential to not only reduce the number of animals used in research, but also develop models that may replace the need to use animals in certain areas of research.”

References:  

  1. Pandin C., Le Coq D., Canette A., Azeredo J. & Braindet R. (2017). Should the biofilm mode of life be taken into consideration for microbial biocontrol agents? Microbial Biotechnology 10 (4). 719 – 734
  2. Kim H-S., Cha E., Kim Y., Jeon Y.H., Olsen B.H., Byun Y. & Park H-D. (2016). Raffinose, a plant galactoside, inhibits Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilm formation via binding to LecA and decreasing cellular cyclic diguanylate levels. Scientific Reports 6, Article No. 25318 [doi: 10.1038/srep25318]
  3. Guest J.F., Ayoub N., McIlwraith T., Uchegbu I., Gerrish A., Weidlich D., Vowden K. & Vowden P. (2015). Health economic burden that wounds impose on the National Health Service in the UK. BMJ 5, e009283
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