The Lush Young Researcher Prize aims to recognise and reward those working to eliminate animal testing in science and cosmetics through their research. Yu Shrike Zhang, from Harvard University, has won one of this year’s 13 prizes for his work developing technology to create human tissue and organ models.
Yu Shrike 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 transform medicine and create a more sustainable world.
Yu Shrike explains: “Wyss researchers are developing innovative new engineering solutions for healthcare, including the organ-on-chip platforms that aim to potentially replace animal testing in the future to provide more accurate predictive human outcomes.”
Yu Shrike has always been passionate about wildlife and nature, which is in part why he decided to work towards an animal-testing-free future. Yu Shrike is a keen bird watcher, and in fact part of the first groups of birders in mainland China.
He says: “When I started my research career in the US 8 years ago, my work was always focused on improving human health through engineering of human tissues and organs for regenerating those diseased or injured.
“But when I learned the possibility of producing in vitro humanized systems that can potentially replace the conventional animal models, I got very excited about this field and decided to focus my future research on developing and perfecting these enabling models in order for them to be able to test a variety of parameters that could only be evaluated previously with animals. This not only significantly improves animal welfare, but also renders the testing results more accurate by eliminating intrinsic difference between animal and human systems.
After winning the Lush Prize Yu Shrike and his team intend to further develop their human tissue bioprinting system.
“This innovative strategy is likely to advance the field of bioprinting by offering unprecedented capacity in printing speed and continuity, which is compatible with a wide variety of bioinks suitable for construction of biomimetic tissue models featuring much higher compositional and architectural complexity than those that achievable with any existing bioprinting techniques.”
This will allow the team to produce more complex human tissue and organ structures, and, hopefully, minimise or eliminate the use of ineffective and unreliable animal tests.