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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

A high-throughput spheroid fusion platform for the templated-assembly of 3D neuromuscular junctions

a photo showing a glass slide being held by a scientist, near to a microscope

At a glance

In progress
Award date
February 2023 - November 2024
Grant amount
Principal investigator
Dr Fabrice Gielen


University of Exeter


  • Replacement
NC3Rs gateway article
View the grant profile on GtR



Why did we fund this project?

This award aims to replace some rodent models of the neuromuscular junction (NMJ) with a 3D human organ-on-chip system.

NMJs are the points of contact between neurons and muscles and are critical to neuromuscular development. Mouse models are routinely used for research but murine and human NMJs have key differences, including their size, complexity, differences in synaptic protein expression and being prone to age-related degeneration. These differences affect the translatability of research using mice to develop drugs to treat human neuromuscular disorders. Dr Fabrice Gielen aims to produce a human 3D in vitro model of the NMJ by fusing hundreds of neuronal and muscular organoid spheres in a microfluidic chip. Each chip is expected to hold up to 400 functional NMJs formed by human neurone-muscle spheroid pairs. This model will produce data more representative to humans faster than mouse experiments it aims to replace and has the potential to accelerate the development of new drugs for neuromuscular disorders.

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