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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

Testing and validation of an in vitro 3D human chondrocyte model to replace animal use in mechanobiology research


At a glance

In progress
Award date
January 2023 - January 2025
Grant amount
Principal investigator
Dr Emma Blain
Cardiff University


  • Replacement
Read the abstract
View the grant profile on GtR



Why did we fund this project?

This award aims to demonstrate a 3D in vitro chondrocyte model is fit-for-purpose by modelling mechanical strain, replacing the use of animals in some studies of joint ageing and disease.

Dr Emma Blain and colleagues have previously developed a 3D model of cartilage-like tissue using human immortalised chondroprogenitor cells. The cells produce a highly organised tissue with the correct composition to support mechanical function. This model should be able to replace animals in studies understanding how chondrocytes sense and respond to mechanical signals. These in vivo studies predominantly use rodents where a knee is surgically destabilised under general anaesthetic to create an uneven load upon the joint. Emma will apply varied mechanical strains to the 3D in vitro chondrocyte model and use RNA sequencing to identify transcriptomic changes in the cells as a result of the mechanical strain. She will compare this data to existing in vivo loading data building confidence in the technique and disseminate to researchers by hosting training sessions in her laboratory.

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