Skip to main content

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
CRACK IT Challenge

Osteo-chip: Microfluidic Automated Platform for Osteoarthritis Drug Screening (MA-PODS)

X-ray graphic of legs, the right leg has joint pain

At a glance

Award date
August 2017 - September 2021
Contract amount


  • Replacement



Osteoarthritis (OA) is a chronic disease that affects the joints, resulting in pain, movement impairment and joint failure. Animal models used for OA research and drug development studies can cause suffering to animals and are limited in their translation to the human disease. Preclinical OA studies use up to 40 animals per study, with the total number of animals used by a pharmaceutical company per year being in excess of 700.

To answer this Challenge, a multidisciplinary team led by Professor Anne Dickinson from Alcyomics Ltd proposes to create co-cultures of the human osteoarthritic joint using cell printing and microfluidics. During Phase 1, the team developed a cell printer that was able to reliably deposit thousands of cells per second. They successfully co-cultured printed cells which were representative of the different parts of the human joint and showed that cell phenotype and viability could be maintained over 72 hours. In Phase 2, the co-cultures were further characterised and a 3D model of human cartilage incorporating immortalised osteoblasts and chondrocytes was developed. A range of chemical or mechanical effects was used to activate the disease process and drugs were introduced to evaluate their ability to stop or reverse osteoarthritis.

Full details about this CRACK IT Challenge can be found on the CRACK IT website.