Asthma is a uniquely human disease, making it difficult to interpret data generated in animal models and apply the knowledge gained in a logical way to the human disease process. Addressing this, we have a broad programme of work to develop alternative approaches to replace the use of animals and provide a better understanding of human asthma. This includes supporting the use of tissue engineering approaches, non-mammalian models (e.g. Drosophila, zebrafish), mathematical modelling and human tissue.
Barriers to human tissue use
Working with Asthma UK, the UK Respiratory Research Collaborative and the UK Human Tissue Authority we have surveyed the UK asthma research community to better understand the extent of human tissue use and the potential barriers to wider uptake. The full survey data report and accompanying article in Thorax can be downloaded below, but it highlighted the potential impact greater use of human tissue could have on understanding the disease, but that access to reliable supplies of human tissue was not sufficient to meet demand. We have used the output from the survey to inform our activities in this area and provide resources and case studies to support researchers in their efforts to use human tissue as part of their asthma research programmes.
NC3Rs awards to increase access to human tissue
In 2016 we made an infrastructure award to Professor Maria Belvisi at Imperial College London to support the development of a process to provide fully ethically consented, post-mortem human normal and diseased lung tissue to the UK scientific community thereby reducing the need for animal tissue. The award is unique in that it includes a strategic partnership with NHS Blood and Transplant Tissue and Eye Services, the organisation responsible for coordinating, collecting, banking and providing tissue for transplant within the NHS. This partnership could truly transform access to human tissue for research purposes and although the initial focus is on asthma, the principles developed during this award will extend to other disease areas.
Working with members of our Asthma Advisory Group we provide below a series of case studies describing each of their different approaches to accessing human tissue to meet their research needs. These give a broad overview of the many ways human tissue can be sourced for research purposes and may guide you in your own efforts to adopt human tissue-based approaches.