The Lush Young Researcher Prize aims to recognise and reward those working to eliminate animal testing in science and cosmetics through their research. Eleftheria Pervolaraki of the University of Leeds, has won one of this year’s 13 prizes for her research into human heart development.
Each year it is estimated that 132,000 mammals are used for cardiac research. What’s more, approximately 1500 papers are published that rely on data acquired from rodents, pigs and chicks. Eleftheria is passionate this is an unreliable way to conduct research, and has published a number of internationally renowned papers on why animal tests are not appropriate for understanding the human body.
She says: “It is widely known that knowledge from animal models cannot be applied to
humans without lengthy and expensive optimisations and trials. I have always
wanted to reduce such burdens, not only for the good of people, but also for the good of animal models.”
Eleftheria’s research into human heart development therefore uses human volunteers, their datasets and computational modelling to learn more about the way the human body grows and works.
She explains: “I aim to answer how babies get arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats) in utero, and how these defects may lead to sudden death.”
“With this project, I recruit volunteers through the NHS and utilise their datasets in combination with computer models to understand human heart physiology in utero and map its development.
“The long-term aim of my work is to produce tools that will be better able to allow obstetricians to identify abnormal heart development during routine prenatal scans.”
Eleftheria hopes to influence the wider scientific community with her approach to replacing animal testing. She says: “Through my publications I will ensure that animal replacement is achieved not only within my lab, but also at a national and international level. My work has already received international attention, and through my outreach activities I continue to promote the benefits of animal-free research.”
After winning the Lush Prize, Eleftheria will be able to continue to study the development of the human heart using human volunteers instead of unreliable animal tests. Her aim is to advance the field of foetal cardiology and help clinicians in timely diagnosis of cardiac disorders.