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Innovative animal-free biomedical research methods are developing rapidly. Existing research mindsets and practices (facilities, grants, regulation and publications) are slowly moving along to include these innovations. Helpathons can help accelerate this in the most pleasant way. These venues are especially valuable in complex fields and locked in situations.

Helpathon #8
May 22-24, 2023 - Amsterdam

Sue, Margot, Valeria, Jasper and Germaine really want to make use of alternatives for animal-based products in their lymph chip models and are calling for Helpathon #8!

The models for skin, intestine and heart diseases themselves are made of human cells and therefore animal-free, but the cells still depend on Matrigel and Foetal Calf Serum for optimal growth. The LymphChip program is just on its way. So this is the right time to help find alternatives for Matrigel and Foetal Calf Serum.

Date: Monday 22/5 13h00 (onsite) 14h00 (online) - Wednesday 24/5 13h00 (online) 14h00 (onsite)
Venue: O2 Building VU, Amsterdam
Number of questions: 3
Number of on-site participants: 60 maximum
Hybride briefing and debriefing.

For whom?
We are looking for experts providing alternatives for Foetal Calf Serum and Matrigel, researchers who have practical experience using the alternatives and anyone else who is looking for them.

Sue Gibbs (skin biology), Valeria Orvola (vascular biology and cardiovascular differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells) and Margot Beukers (program management) are the leaders of this interdisciplinary consortium. They want to take the organoid field forward. Can you help them map out where, when and how to find and implement animal-free alternatives for their cultures? The knowledge acquired at this Helpathon will be made available to the whole field to ensure broad implementation of these alternatives.


Three help questions

Can you help Jasper?
Jasper Koning is doing research on skin diseases. He believes it must be possible to find an alternative to Foetal Calf Serum to grow immune cells. Can you help him find alternatives to Foetal Calf Serum so he can build human models animal free? Jasper is especially looking for researchers with practical experience in applying alternatives. He did some trials himself with mixed results.

Can you help Germaine?
Germaine Aalderink is investigating the uptake of lipids travelling from the gut into the lymphatic system and further explore the merits of this alternative drug intake strategy. Can you help Germaine make an intestinal and lymphatic model with an alternative for Matrigel that is animal-free? She wants to know what components are essential in each phase of intestinal development and is interested in both the positive and negative experiences of other researchers with the use of alternatives for Matrigel.

Can you help Margot?
Margot Beukers is the LymphChip program manager. Can you help Margot bring the field forward by sharing your experience with animal-free alternatives for Foetal Calf Serum and Matrigel?


- Preferably we ask you to come at least 1,5 consecutive days. If you cannot make it and you would like to keep in touch, join the Hybrid Briefing and Debriefing.

Additional information

Facts on Matrigel
Matrigel is harvested from mice carrying Engelbreth-Holm-Swarm (EHS) sarcomas. These cancers secrete large amounts of the extracellular matrix which is purified into the product. Matrigel suffers from batch-to-batch variability which means that researchers have to perform lot-testing for their specific applications. Approximately 1 mouse is needed for 5 ml of matrigel.

Facts on Foetal Calf Serum
The first stage of the production process for the serum is the harvesting of blood from the bovine foetus after the foetus is removed from the slaughtered cow. The longer the foetus can be kept alive the more blood can be harvested. It takes approximately one bovine foetus to harvest 500 ml of serum.


Organising trust!

An important quality of a Helpathon venue is organising trust! The success of Helpathon #8 depends on it. We ask you to share both positive and negative results of using alternative products for Matrigel and Foetal Calf Serum. Together we will tackle Germain’s and Jasper’s LymphChip questions and we will explore which currently available alternative products can or cannot be used for particular organoid models.

Together we will also find a way to disclose to our peers these practical findings in a way that doesn’t breach the trust of the participants. For this as the Helpathon Team we ask you to adhere to these seven simple rules:

  1. Listen to each other with an open mind and an open heart;
  2. Keep focussing on the help questions you came to answer;
  3. Be nice to each other during the Helpathon;
  4. Do not quote statements of others in social media, only quote your own findings;
  5. Germain and Jasper will report to the participants where they expect to be in four weeks from now;
  6. We will produce a digital memory aid include the flow knowledge that emerged during the Helpathon. This is a working document for participants only;
  7. As the Helpathon #8 Team we take upon us to bring findings into the public domain more and therefore plan to also write a consolidated workshop report for publication in a peer reviewed open access journal. We commit ourselves to produce a draft before the summer. We will ask for comments from participants who's preliminary results we refer to, or whose products we refer to. We commit ourselves to take their comments into account in the final report.

In case of any questions, please contact:

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