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WC11: Is there a role for the 3Rs in COVID-19 research?

Wednesday, 12 August

In the past few weeks the organizers of 11th World Congress on Alternatives and Animal Use in the Life Sciences have asked several people to answer the question: "Is there a role for the 3Rs in COVID-19 research?". In the recent newsletter 5, hDMT PI Katja Wolthers and hDMT chair Christine Mummery answered the question.

Katja Wolthers
Clinical virologist at the Department of Medical Microbiology of the University Medical Center Amsterdam and Director of Organovir (The Netherlands)

"The recent SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has led to an overwhelming amount of published papers on pathophysiology, treatment and vaccine development against COVID-19, and many of these studies include research with animals. Although animal models have historically contributed immensely, the limitations of these models for virology are also clear. Animal models do not adequately reproduce human viral disease pathophysiology and in some instances, pathogens have a unique human host range that cannot be replicated in an animal model. As a part of the preparedness against emerging infectious diseases, human models are needed that are better predictors of disease outcome, immune response, and potential therapeutics. The current pandemic provides ample opportunity to rapidly develop such human disease models, either in vitro with organoid technology or in silico with integrating data from different fields to build virtual disease models. A major future challenge lies in reduction and replacement of animal models for viral vaccine research. Now is the time to start."

Christine Mummery
President of the European Organ-on-Chip Society (The Netherlands)

"Emerging models proving very useful for COVID-19 research are human stem cells which can be differentiated to many cell types and incorporated in Organ-on-Chip formats. In this way, they often capture human tissue physiology and its response to viral infection, since as importantly for COVID-19, SARS-COV-2 only infects human cells, not those of mice. By using existing human stem cell derived cardiac, lung, liver, gut and blood vessel models, researchers are able to rapidly evaluate the effects of anti-virals and drugs including their cardiotoxicity. Furthermore, these models are leading to better understanding of how infection affects the heart and other organs. By leveraging existing models and measurement methods, impact beyond conventional approaches will be accelerated by providing data immediately relevant to clinicians. In this way, a reduction of preclinical cardiac safety assessment from months in animal models to just weeks in these systems can be expected. Another serious problem for COVID patients is thrombosis in small blood vessels which causes serious tissue damage. Blood vessels-on-chip through which blood from COVID-19 patients flows, are also promising tools to gain insight into how thrombosis occurs in COVID-19 patients and how to prevent it."

Source: WC11 newsletter 5

Don't forget: Free Live WC11 webinars
On 25 and 26 August 2020 at 3 PM CET, WC11 will organize two 1.5 hour webinars on 3Rs in COVID-19 research. On both days, several excellent presentations will highlight innovative model systems to study COVID-19, and will also discuss new strategies for the development of vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics and much more!

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