Two UK based research projects totalling just under £1 million have been awarded by the NC3Rs to develop innovative research techniques to find new treatments for asthma.
Scientists from two UK universities will use 3D modelling and tissue engineering to develop new 'animal free' models so they can better understand asthma, which could lead to more effective treatment.
NC3Rs Chief executive, Dr Vicky Robinson said: "Asthma is an area of considerable unmet medical need. Very few new drugs have been marketed to treat asthma in the last 50 years, and many of the current treatments are inadequate. By funding these pioneering research projects, we can develop better therapies for the 5.4 million people who suffer from asthma in the UK, whilst reducing the need for animals in this research."
Grant winner, Dr Felicity Rose from University of Nottingham will be working in collaboration with University of Leicester on a tissue engineering project that will build 'living' models of human asthmatic airways.
Dr Rose said: "The project holds great potential to develop better models of human asthma, providing a real alternative to the use of animals for the study of this terrible disease, and to advance the development of new drugs. These tissues mimic the disease better than animal models because they are replicas of human asthma. We are absolutely delighted to be awarded this grant from the NC3Rs."
Professor Donna Davies from University of Southampton has also won a grant said: "We are thrilled to be awarded an NC3Rs grant to develop new models for asthma research. Asthma is a difficult disease to study in animals because it involves genetic, as well as, environmental influences.
"We aim to use cells from people with asthma to develop a synthetic model of the asthmatic airway and, by using microfabrication, to provide the 'airway' with an artificial blood supply. By constructing a 'tissue' that is much closer to real life, we hope that many experiments that currently require the use of laboratory animals will become unnecessary."
Asthma UK has supported this initiative by facilitating access to the asthma research community and helping to put together an expert panel to assess the applications.
Leanne Metcalf, Assistant Director of Research at Asthma UK says: "It has been exciting to work together with the NC3Rs. These projects raise the bar in the creation of laboratory models to understand asthma and develop new treatments. We keenly await the results of the research."
The NC3Rs is the UK's largest funder of research that works to replace, reduce and refine the use of animals in experiments (referred to as the 3Rs). To date, the Centre has awarded grants totalling almost £18 million.