Iowa State Students’ Innovative Organ-On-A-Chip Research Wins PETA Grant

Student Researchers Are Developing ‘Placenta-on-a-Chip’—a Cost-Effective Replacement for Invasive Animal Tests

For Immediate Release:
May 1, 2015

Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382

Ames, Iowa

PETA is backing Iowa State University (ISU) student researchers who are developing a state-of-the-art method to save countless animals from cruel, expensive, and unreliable experiments.

The organization has donated $1,000 to a team of ISU undergraduate and graduate students working in the laboratory of Dr. Nastaran Hashemi, to help them build and test the first-ever “placenta-on-a-chip”—a miniature, functioning placenta that’s built from human cells and can be used to model diseases that might affect the organ and fetus during pregnancy and test potential treatments. PETA’s donation allowed the students to beat their online fundraising goal and set a new one.

As researcher and Iowa State senior Marta Sucur explains, “Animal testing is something our society has been making attempts to avoid, and I believe these chips are a huge step in the right direction. The availability of a chip such as ours may save many animals’ lives and move toward a more ethical and effective method of testing.”

“These students at Iowa State University represent the future of science—developing creative solutions for pressing medical problems, all without caging, poisoning, and killing animals,” says PETA Director of Laboratory Investigations Justin Goodman. “PETA looks forward to the day when these young scientists’ innovative, new research method will be used in laboratories around the world.”

In some current experiments, mice, rabbits, monkeys, and other animals are impregnated, injected with chemicals, subjected to invasive experiments, and killed to remove their developing fetuses and placentas. In addition to the fact that experiments on animals are extremely cruel, there is wide acknowledgement in the scientific community that these experiments particularly those related to the placenta—are inapplicable to humans. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration states that nine out of 10 drugs that pass animal tests fail in humans because they don’t work or are dangerous.

For ethical and scientific reasons, organs-on-chips and other human-based research methods are growing in popularity. PETA named biotech startup Emulate, Inc.—which was started by the Harvard team that pioneered organs-on-chips—its 2014 Company of the Year for its work to commercialize this innovative technology.

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