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Researcher wins award for creating technologies to reduce animal experimentation

Researcher Estrela Neto, from the Neuro & Skeletal Circuits group, recently won a “3R Animal Research Tomorrow Award” with the project “Organ-on-a-chip systems are the animal’s best friends” which proposed an alternative to animal testing in the area of ​​bone metastases and associated pain.

This prize, worth five thousand euros, represents for the researcher “a recognition of the importance of developing complex models that allow the study of biological mechanisms that occur in living beings, reducing, or even replacing, animal experimentation”. In this case, says Estrela Neto, “we propose an organ-on-a-chip model that mimics the sensation and perception of pain in bone metastases that will allow us to unravel factors that initiate the process of pain in the periphery, test new drugs and predict their efficiency”.

The precision and reproducibility of in vitro models have increased confidence in their use and reduced animal experimentation. The organ-on-a-chip, for example, is a three-dimensional chip that mimics the activities and physiological/pathological responses of organs and systems. It’s like a miniature organ. And, for this reason, explains the researcher, “they are excellent tools for replicating functional units of biological systems and dissecting cellular and molecular mechanisms”.

In the case of cancer research and more specifically bone pain, animal models continue to be widely used, which causes them a lot of discomfort. Thus, emphasizes Estrela Neto, “with this model we present an alternative to significantly reduce and, ideally, replace animal tests in this type of investigation”.

Estrela Neto has been working for some years with microfluidics/organ-on-a-chip models, and stresses “this award consolidates the importance that this line of research currently has. It will also contribute to the development of a new platform, which I believe will make a difference in the advancement of studies associated with pain in bone metastases”.