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Blizard Institute - Barts and The London

Cross-faculty team win funding challenge to study tissue regeneration using organ-on-a-chip technology

A team of interdisciplinary researchers from Queen Mary University of London’s Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, and the School of Engineering and Materials Science, are one of three awardees for Phase 1 funding of the NC3Rs CRACK IT Challenge call. The funding will allow the team to develop a way to study tissue regeneration after traumatic injuries using organ-on-a-chip technology.

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The Centre for Predictive in vitro Models at Queen Mary University of London

The National Centre for the Replacement Refinement & Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs) champions innovation in the 3Rs turning great ideas into products and services to replace, reduce and refine the use of animals through the CRACK IT Challenges competition.

Sponsored by Dstl and co-funded by Dstl and EPSRC, this year’s STRATIS Challenge tasks applicants to produce a human-relevant and high throughput in vitro or ex vivo platform that recapitulates the complex structures of skeletal muscle and the pathology of significant injury to them. The platform must offer a model for novel wound therapeutics and approaches to restore form and function after significant soft tissue injury. Phase 1 was open to UK and EU based applicants, and grants £100k to winning teams to undertake six-month proof-of-concept studies.

The project proposed by the Queen Mary team is a cross-faculty collaboration between three Queen Mary labs. The Principal Investigators heading these labs include Dr Yung-Yao Lin and Dr John Connelly from the Blizard Institute, and Professor Julien Gautrot from Queen Mary’s School of Engineering and Materials Science. The team will develop a novel soft tissue-on-a-chip platform amenable for studying tissue regeneration after traumatic injuries. The team is now eligible to compete with the other two awardees for Phase 2 funding, which includes a budget of up to £800k to deliver the full Challenge.

Project Lead Dr Yung-Yao Lin said: “Our collaborative project will have a significant impact on enabling researchers to study soft tissue injury and regeneration using a human-relevant pre-clinical model, as well as reducing and replacing the use of research animals.”

The project will make use of the bioprinting and microfabrication facilities of Queen Mary's CRoss-InstitutE Advanced Tissue Engineering (CREATE) Lab, and it is in line with the university’s Centre for Predictive in vitro Models. The Centre represents multidisciplinary research focusing on the development and use of predictive in vitro models and next generation engineered tissues. This incorporates a wide range of model systems including 2D and 3D cell culture models, organoids, microphysiological systems, organ-on-a-chip technology, and other types of in vitro model.

Researchers across Queen Mary are using these in vitro models to examine fundamental hypotheses around health and disease and to test new therapeutic strategies including pharmaceuticals, regenerative medicine techniques, medical devices and biomaterials. This research is supported by bioengineers who are developing these complex in vitro models and the underpinning technology which includes aspects of microfluidics, biomaterials, mechanobiology, computational modelling, micromanufacture and 3D printing.

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