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Sasan Jalili-Firoozinezhad honored with 2018 Lush Young Researcher award

In a ceremony held in Berlin, Germany, Lush Foundation recognized potential of Wyss Institute’s human intestine chip for replacing animals in the study of radiation injury

By Benjamin Boettner

(BOSTON) — In a ceremony held in Berlin, Germany, Sasan Jalili-Firoozinezhad received a Young Researcher Award from the Lush Foundation for his project modeling injuries that result from ionizing radiation on a human intestine-on-a-chip (Intestine Chip). The Intestine Chip can be used to investigate potential countermeasure drugs that could be developed to treat and prevent radiation injuries like those damaging the human body as a consequence of nuclear accidents, and as an unwanted side effect of radiation therapies or space travel.

Sasan Jalili-Firoozinezhad honored with 2018 Lush Young Researcher award
This photo shows Sasan Jallili Firoozinezhad (on the right) as one of the winners of the Young Researcher Americas category at the Lush Foundations 2018 award ceremony held in Berlin. Credit: Lush Foundation

As one of 15 projects that have been awarded in the Young Researcher category, Jalili-Firoozinezhad’s proposal resonated strongly with the foundation’s 2018 theme of “Is there an end in sight for animal testing? Can Organ-on-a-Chip replace animal use in safely testing with advanced human focused approaches?” Now in its seventh year, The Lush Prize offers a global prize fund across five award categories, including Lobbying, Training, Public Awareness, Science, and Young Researchers with the goal “to bring forward the day when safety testing for drugs, cosmetics and chemicals takes place without the use of animals.”

Jalili-Firoozinezhad’s project was recognized as one of the most effective approaches toward that goal. Jalili-Firoozinezhad, who is mentored by Wyss Institute Founding Director Don Ingber, used his team’s human Intestine Chip to model in vitro how cell populations in the human gut are injured by radiation. The Intestine Chip recapitulates the interface between the intestinal epithelium and intestinal endothelial blood vessels, while it experiences peristalsis-like motions and fluid flow, and contains a complex human gut microbiome. The human Intestine Chip can not only provide insights into how radiation injury is communicated between epithelial and endothelial intestinal cell populations, but become a means to probe deeper into the emerging role of the commensal microbiome in the development of radiation damage.

Understanding in detail how radiation-induced changes are triggered and how one change can lead to another, from the tissue down to the molecular level, is vital for the investigation of drug candidates that eventually could help avoid them altogether. Indeed, Jalili-Firoozinezhad and Ingber have previously shown in their Intestine Chip model that a drug, dimethyloxaloylglycine (DMOG), was able to set up a protective barrier to radiation, both validating the drug and demonstrating that the system can be a highly effective tool and be used in lieu of animals for radiation testing. Animal models such as rodents poorly predict how a given drug will behave in humans, further highlighting the relevance of the Intestine Chip model.

In this video, Sasan Jalili-Firoozinezhad explains his approach in Donald Ingber’s team at the Wyss Institute to model the interaction between intestinal epithelial cells and gut microbes in response in human radiation disease on an Intestine Chip. Credit: Lush Foundation
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