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Associate professor receives animal welfare scholarship

Mette Nyegaard has just received a scholarship of DKK 100,000 from the Frøknerne Anna and Dagny Hjerrilds Foundation for the abolition of animal testing in scientific research.

When Associate Professor and PhD Mette Nyegaard from the Department of Biomedicine maps genes in the laboratory, she does so without using laboratory animals. For this reason she has earned this year's scholarship of DKK 100,000 from the Frøknerne Anna and Dagny Hjerrilds Foundation. It is awarded to researchers who take animal welfare seriously in their work.

“I am very happy to receive this scholarship. It is recognition of my work. I have spent many years specialising in what genetic variation means for health and disease," says Mette Nyegaard.

She works with genetics at the molecular level. Here she identifies and maps genetic variations in the body in order to find the mutations in our genes that lead to both ordinary and rare diseases.

No mice under the microscope

Gene mapping requires access to many genes. For this reason, it is one of the areas where animal experiments are often used in laboratories. But Mette Nyegaard has found a method for avoiding animal usage in her experiments:

"Because the technology has developed exponentially within the last five years, you can to a great extent look directly at large populations instead of doing experiments on animals," she explains.

"I use nature as a laboratory. I look at the variations in the hereditary material which have arisen naturally over time, and I study what they mean in relation to health and disease."

At the same time, she believes that it is important to pay tribute to the researchers who have paved the way for the mapping of genes.

"Receiving the scholarship is humbling as my research builds on the efforts of many other people before me. For example those who decided to sequence the human genome for the first time, so that we can today make use of the gene variants that mother nature has given us to find new disease mechanisms and hopefully new treatment methods," explains Mette Nyegaard.

Will investigate infertility

Mette Nyegaard heads a team of researchers that currently comprises two PhD students and a student assistant. The team currently have particular focus on the disease endometriosis as they map genes without the use of laboratory mice.

The scholarship from the Anna and Dagny Hjerrilds Foundation will also come to benefit both mice and humans.

"I have always had a strong desire to look at genetics within reproduction and infertility. The money from the scholarship will be used to investigate whether it is possible to 'turn back time' in the uterus and increase the chance of pregnancy in infertile women," says Mette Nyegaard.

The project will be carried out in collaboration with clinicians and fertility doctors. Mette Nyegaard is looking forward to immersing herself in working in an area that she finds very interesting.

"In this way the scholarship will also be used in the spirit it was originally intended for," she concludes.

Mette Nyegaard was presented with the scholarship on Monday 7 March when Aarhus University held a reception for this year's animal-friendly scientist.


Further information:

Associate Professor, PhD Mette Nyegaard
Aarhus University, Department of Biomedicine
Direct tel.: (+45) 8716 7773
Mobile: +45) 4022 1340 / 2231 3602