Case studies

Animal research plays a vital role in our efforts to remain at the forefront of medicine and science. This research contributes to groundbreaking developments in understanding and treating diseases that devastate millions of lives every year.

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Research stories

Research on inflammation and hypoxia

Inflammation and hypoxia, a condition where not enough oxygen makes it to the cells and tissues in the body, go hand-in-hand in a variety of age-related diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, stroke and the growth of solid tumours.

The study, by a team that includes researchers from the University of Sheffield, using zebrafish as an in vivo screening tool, discovered that specific glucocorticoid anti-inflammatory drugs, for example, corticosteroids can activate Hypoxia Inducible Factor (HIF) signalling.

Learn more about inflammation and hypoxia


Breast cancer research

Breast cancer is the UK’s most common cancer and around 11,500 women still lose their lives each year. Almost all of these deaths are attributable to secondary breast cancer, where breast cancer has spread to form tumours in other parts of the body, which can be controlled, but not cured.

A study using animal models has found that drugs commonly used to treat arthritis may help to prevent breast cancer spreading to the bone, where it is incurable. The growth of breast cancer cells was investigated in mice to discover what helps the disease settle and grow in a new location.

Find out more about breast cancer research (archived story)


Scientists discover new drug which could improve life expectancy and quality for pancreatic cancer patients

Pancreatic cancer has the lowest survival rate of all common cancers, with only seven per cent of patients surviving five years after diagnosis.

A new drug that could improve life expectancy and quality for patients with hard-to-treat cancers, such as pancreatic cancer and relapsed breast cancer, has been invented by scientists at the University of Sheffield. The novel drug molecules were found to be effective in treating pancreatic cancer tumours in mice. Tumours did not grow as fast which provided evidence to suggest life expectancy would be extended.

Read the full story (archived story)


Parkinson's gene may impair how new neurons are made throughout our lifetime

Parkinson’s disease is a relentlessly progressive neurodegenerative disorder that affects around 145,000 people in the UK. Each day, 80 people in the UK are newly diagnosed with this condition, and currently, only symptomatic treatment options are available. There is no cure.

Researchers at the University have discovered a gene defect linked to Parkinson’s disease may not only cause the early death of neurons but also impair the process that generates neurons in the brain throughout our lifetime. The findings may have a significant impact on the future treatment of Parkinson’s patients who develop the illness due to PINK1 defect or similar gene defects. The researchers used zebrafish to examine how neurons are produced throughout our lifetime.

Learn more about the Parkinson's research


Reducing the number of animals in research

Lab-grown bone could change the way we test new medical treatments

Developing new medicines usually involves animal research - known as in vivo testing. However, a new approach developed by researchers at the University provides a way of developing some new medicines entirely in the laboratory - known as in vitro - that reduces the need to use animals in research.

Our researchers have developed a bone-on-a-chip system - a tiny chip containing living cells. The chip can be used to grow bone tissue which can then be used to test new potential treatments for diseased or damaged bones. The aim is that one day, the device could be connected to other organ-on-a-chip devices - such as the liver, heart, lungs etc - to create a human-on-a-chip that would remove the need for animal research in the development of new medical treatments entirely.

Read more about our research into lab-grown bone (archived story)

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