The Lush Young Researcher Prize aims to recognise and reward those working to eliminate animal testing in science and cosmetics through their research. Kambez Hajipouran Benam, from the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, has won one of this year’s 13 prizes for his pioneering development of the ‘human lung small airway-on-a-chip - a system that enables analysis of lung inflammation and drug responses.
Using this new system Kambez was able to test experimental drugs on lungs suffering from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) - the third leading cause of death in humans worldwide. What’s more he was able to test the effects of smoke from both traditional tobacco and e-cigarettes using an in vitro system that mimicked human breathing.
He explains: “Using the smoking lung chip I was able to study the potential toxic effects of electronic cigarettes in a way not possible in animals or other in vitro culture models, and to identify a unique set of genes that distinguished differential responses to inhaled whole smoke in COPD epithelium compared to healthy normal lung tissue.”
Kambez works alongside a team at The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, where nature's design principles of self-organisation and self regulation are used as a starting point to develop bioinspired materials and devices that will revolutionize healthcare and enhance sustainability
Kambez is determined to continue working towards a future where unreliable animal tests are a thing of the past.
He says: “In the pulmonary field there is a big disconnect between widely used animal models (e.g. rodents) and their translatability for human diseases. So, why not replace animals with reliable in vitro human-derived model systems that are physiologically more relevant and predictive?”
After winning the Lush Prize, Kambez will continue his research developing organs-on-chips as a more effective alternative to animal testing.