The Lush Young Researcher Prize aims to recognise and reward those working to eliminate animal testing in science and cosmetics through their research. Dr Pranjul Shah from the Luxembourg Centre for Systems of Biomedicine, has won one of this year’s 13 prizes for his development of in vitro models on which to test human bacteria.
The human body is host to trillions of bacteria, commonly called the human microbiome.
It is believed that the human microbiome plays a critical role in a number of diseases, including diabetes and cancer.
Currently animal tests are used to investigate the interaction between the human body and the bacteria, however, because of species differences, animals are unable to accurately mimic this.
Pranjul explains: “There is an imminent need for representative in vitro models that could replace the animal-based studies that have extremely high failure rates.”
Pranjul and his team have developed a credit-card-sized system that is capable of reproducing the interaction between bacteria and any part of the human body, such as the gut, lung or skin.
He said: “We first targeted the human gut and demonstrated that the system can mimic
human responses previously highlighted in two separate human clinical studies. We
further demonstrated that our gut model was better at estimating human response to
probiotic therapy than piglets.
“These results corroborate the promise of such in vitro systems widely termed as organs-on- chip to minimise the global dependence on animal testing for development of food, pharma and cosmetic products.”
But why is Pranjul dedicated to replacing animal testing in his field?
As well as his vegetarian, Jain upbringing, he explains his reasoning: “Mounting evidence against animal model and technology advancements now make it possible to mimic humans better via organs-on- chip.”
After winning the Lush Prize, Pranjul will continue to develop the organ-on-chip technology.