Datesand News

The Perfect Balance of Enrichment and Exercise

October saw the introduction of the latest Datesand product, once again following the Janet Wood Innovation Award 2019.

The C-Saw, designed by Pete Willan, is an enrichment device based on the original ‘see-saw’ design. This versatile product provides variable exercise by allowing small rodents to utilise their ability to climb and drop and re-enact this on a repetitive basis, as well as helping to increase sensory balance awareness.

It has also been designed to fit perfectly with a standard disposable play tunnel, so it essentially offers two enrichment devices in one! In combining the two products, cage space is saved significantly, additional shelter is introduced, and animal wellbeing is improved.

This easy slide-on device is completely reusable – as it is made from certified hard-wearing, non-toxic nylon, it can be autoclaved.

This is just the latest product Datesand have introduced following the annual Janet Wood Innovation Award.

You can find out all you need to know about the C-Saw and order your FREE sample here.

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Since the competition began in 2016, we have also seen the release of:


Could you design a product that makes a difference in the Life Sciences industry?

The Janet Wood Innovation Award 2020 is now open and remains so until February 1st 2020. Download your application pack now to get started:

Taking Time to Care

Throughout September, Karen took some time to work with a cause she cares deeply about.

AgeUK offers information, advice and health care and wellbeing assistance to older people not just throughout the UK but also in some of the poorest countries around the world. They also run campaigns and conduct research to help improve lives of older people while offering community support to those who need it most.


We asked Karen about her time with her local AgeUK charity…

“For a while I have been wanting to volunteer for AgeUK Salford for selfish reasons really. I had no grandparents growing up as they sadly passed away before I was born, so I don’t have any memories of them. 

I applied in 2017 to volunteer with AgeUK Salford but unfortunately, I was not able to proceed with my application with them as I found out I was pregnant.

Following a 1-2-1 in November 2018 with Jonathon, we discussed life plans/goals in both work and personal life for 2019. 

Reapplying to volunteer for AgeUK Salford was on my ‘To Achieve’ list this year, the process began in June and I did an odd day or two as a volunteer for Chatter and Coffee morning at Critchley Café in Swinton. 

At the end of August, I decided to use my remaining annual leave to volunteer on Fridays at the café. During this time we have received funding and approval for the café to be opened on Saturday where Chatter and Coffee Morning will take place and the AgeUK Salford Rep approached me to be one of the leads for this. 

I have thoroughly enjoyed my volunteering; I have met some very interesting people and I cannot wait to continue to do this as it’s definitely good for the soul and I will be taking my daughter along with me every week that I have her!”


If you’d like to find out more about AgeUK and what you can do to help, there is more information here.

Researchers Develop New Way to 3D Print Living Skin with Blood Vessels

Reviewed by Kate Anderton, B.Sc. (Editor) – News Medical

Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have developed a way to 3D print living skin, complete with blood vessels. The advancement, published online today in Tissue Engineering Part A, is a significant step toward creating grafts that are more like the skin our bodies produce naturally.

“Right now, whatever is available as a clinical product is more like a fancy Band-Aid,” said Pankaj Karande, an associate professor of chemical and biological engineering and member of the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies (CBIS), who led this research at Rensselaer. “It provides some accelerated wound healing, but eventually it just falls off; it never really integrates with the host cells.”

A significant barrier to that integration has been the absence of a functioning vascular system in the skin grafts.

Karande has been working on this challenge for several years, previously publishing one of the first papers showing that researchers could take two types of living human cells, make them into “bio-inks,” and print them into a skin-like structure. Since then, he and his team have been working with researchers from Yale School of Medicine to incorporate vasculature.

In this paper, the researchers show that if they add key elements – including human endothelial cells, which line the inside of blood vessels, and human pericyte cells, which wrap around the endothelial cells — with animal collagen and other structural cells typically found in a skin graft, the cells start communicating and forming a biologically relevant vascular structure within the span of a few weeks. You can watch Karande explain this development here.

“As engineers working to recreate biology, we’ve always appreciated and been aware of the fact that biology is far more complex than the simple systems we make in the lab. We were pleasantly surprised to find that, once we start approaching that complexity, biology takes over and starts getting closer and closer to what exists in nature.” – Pankaj Karande, associate professor of chemical and biological engineering, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Once the Yale team grafted it onto a special type of mouse, the vessels from the skin printed by the Rensselaer team began to communicate and connect with the mouse’s own vessels.

“That’s extremely important, because we know there is actually a transfer of blood and nutrients to the graft which is keeping the graft alive,” Karande said.

In order to make this usable at a clinical level, researchers need to be able to edit the donor cells using something like the CRISPR technology, so that the vessels can integrate and be accepted by the patient’s body.

“We are still not at that step, but we are one step closer,” Karande said.

“This significant development highlights the vast potential of 3D bioprinting in precision medicine, where solutions can be tailored to specific situations and eventually to individuals,” said Deepak Vashishth, the director CBIS. “This is a perfect example of how engineers at Rensselaer are solving challenges related to human health.”

Karande said more work will need to be done to address the challenges associated with burn patients, which include the loss of nerve and vascular endings. But the grafts his team has created bring researchers closer to helping people with more discrete issues, like diabetic or pressure ulcers.

“For those patients, these would be perfect, because ulcers usually appear at distinct locations on the body and can be addressed with smaller pieces of skin,” Karande said. “Wound healing typically takes longer in diabetic patients, and this could also help to accelerate that process.”


Winner Focus – Vanessa Jenkins

This month, we revisit the 2018 Janet Wood Award-winning Nombrero and its creator, Vanessa Jenkins, to find out more about her journey.

Vanessa Jenkins is a Biology and Marine Sciences Technician at Plymouth University. She has worked in Zoos before and after studying Animal Sciences and Conservation at University. While working in Zoos and Aquariums, Vanessa got to design and review different enrichment products every day. This experience inspired her to take part in the competition and improve the welfare of lab mice.

She designed the Nombrero to hold wet food in a mouse cage at an easily accessible height. It keeps the food from getting into contact with the cage bedding and provides added enrichment for the mice by allowing them to stretch.


Here’s all you need to know about her experience with the Janet Wood Innovation Award…


Q: How long have you been in the industry?

“I started working as an animal technician almost two years ago. Previously I worked in zoos for around five years.”


Q: What is the purpose of the product you designed?

“The aim of the product is to improve the welfare of laboratory mice by providing easily accessible and clean wet diet.”


Q: Where did the idea for your product originate from?

“I wanted to fix a problem, the problem being that wet food placed into bedding makes cages dirty very quickly.”


Q: How does the product promote one or more of the 3Rs?

“This product aims to improve refinement by improving welfare with easily accessible clean wet feed.”


Q: What would you say are the 3 main things to consider when designing a brand-new product?

“1- Purpose – Does the product have a need and would you use it?

2- The design itself – What material it’s made from, the size and what is its unique selling point?

3- Shipping and storage – Can you stack the product to reduce storage and shipping space requirements? “


Q: Did you face any challenges when designing your product? If so, how did you overcome them?

“I knew I wanted something that could hold wet food, not fall over and be reused. I came up with loads of different designs so picking one was a challenge.

I asked if you could submit more than one and Datesand said yes, so I sent three in the hope that one of them would be picked.”


Q: What would you say to someone looking to submit a product to the Janet Wood Innovation Award in the future?

“Keep it simple, provide plenty of images or videos that show the product and make it memorable, maybe with a catchy name.”




You can find out more about the nombrero here.

Vanessa recently visited the 2019 ANZLAA conference in Perth as her prize for winning the competition. You can see how she spent her time with this fantastic video.

 To start your Janet Wood Innovation Award journey, download an application pack now.

Baking, Faking, Wearing & Caring

Once again, the Datesand team have come together to raise money for more brilliant charitable causes.

On 3rd October, the team got together through baking and faking to support Macmillan Coffee Morning. It was an overall great team effort with plenty of yummy cakes on hand, all for the greater good.


On the 18th October, everybody got dressed in their finest pink for Breast Cancer Now’s #WearItPink campaign.

There were some pink treats on offer and a pink-themed sweepstake was circulated around the office – it was Jonathon who came out as the lucky winner!


Overall, Datesand raised just over £158 this month between the charities that will surely go to fantastic use.

There is more information to be found out about Macmillan and Breast Cancer Now.

Datesand also look forward to supporting Mission Christmas by CashforKids between now and Christmas.