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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 novel approach for modelling the healthy nose-brain axis in vitro

Portrait of Dr Verena Stoeger and Professor Roisin Owens

At a glance

In progress
Award date
January 2023 - May 2023
Grant amount
Principal investigator
Professor Róisín Owens
University of Cambridge


  • Replacement
Read the abstract
View the grant profile on GtR



Why did we fund this project?

This award aims to replace the use of mice in some studies of the nose-brain interface by coupling nasal organoids with bioelectronic sensors.

The nasal epithelial barrier and commensal bacteria that colonise the nasal passage prevent harmful pathogens from entering the body. Both the nasal epithelial barrier and the nasal microbiome change with age, making elderly people more susceptible to central nervous system infections. To understand the impact of ageing on the nose-brain interface, mice are imaged using MRI while the animal is under anaesthetic to analyse the brain. Professor Róisín Owens and colleagues, working with Research Associate Dr Verena Stoeger, will further develop the current in vitro models available for studying the nose-brain interface by using an e-Transmembrane device. Microbiome and tissue biopsies from human sinonasal surgeries will be cultured as organoids on electroactive scaffolds integrated in the device so that barrier integrity and neuron firing can be analysed in real time. The device also contains multiple chambers, enabling drug uptake into the olfactory epithelium to be studied increasing the number of in vivo studies this model could replace.

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