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International 3Rs Prize now open for applications. £30k prize (£2k personal award) for outstanding science with demonstrable 3Rs impacts.

NC3Rs | 20 Years: Pioneering Better Science

Epithelial barrier model: in silico modelling and high throughput assessment


At a glance

In progress
Award date
February 2023 - February 2025
Grant amount
Principal investigator
Dr Malgorzata Wiench
University of Birmingham


  • Replacement
Read the abstract
View the grant profile on GtR



Why did we fund this project?

This award aims to enhance the reproducibility and reliability of human epithelial organotypic rafts to increase their potential to replace animal models in oral mucosa and skin research.

Human skin and oral mucosa are protected from the external environment by multi-layered complex epithelia. These form a barrier against abrasion, toxins, infectious agents, water loss and UV radiation and are key for maintaining functional healthy tissues. The epithelial barrier can be studied in vivo or in vitro using raft cultures, 3D cultures where epithelial cells form multi-layered differentiating tissue. There are a number of barriers to uptake of epithelial organotypic raft cultures, including technical challenges, poor reproducibility and a lack of reliable high throughput systems. Many of these are due to variations in the air-liquid interface which results in inconsistent growth and stratification of cells. Dr Malgorzata Wiench has developed a Buoyant Epithelial Culture Device (BECD) where human epithelial rafts float on top of media and the air-liquid interface is automatically maintained. Malgorzata and colleagues will now further develop the BECD to increase throughput and extend functionality to assess epithelial integrity and barrier function building confidence in the model and increasing uptake.

This award was made as part of the BBSRC/NC3Rs joint call for the development of next generation non-animal technologies (NATs).