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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 computational framework to investigate the mechanical role of the extracellular matrix in tissue development and disease

Dr Nargess Khalilgharibi

At a glance

Award date
February 2020 - July 2022
Grant amount
Principal investigator
Dr Nargess Khalilgharibi
University College London


  • Reduction
  • Replacement
Read the abstract
View the grant profile on GtR


Why did we fund this fellowship?

This award aims to develop a computational model to study the mechanical role of the extracellular matrix (ECM) in tissue development and function replacing mammalian model organisms, such as rats and mice.

Dysregulated ECM composition, both during early development and later in life, can result in various pathological conditions such as Alport’s syndrome, fibrosis and kidney failure. Animals are used in basic research studies to further understanding of the ECM and to provide insights into disease. The development of the ECM is perturbed in some of these studies, either by genetically modifying the animal to introduce a relevant mutation or by treating the animal with a chemical such as small molecule inhibitors. In vitro methods in ECM research do exist but these require animal-derived matrices, for example Matrigel is often used to provide structural support to 3D organoid cultures used in the research. Dr Nargess Khalilgharibi will build upon work from her supervisor, Dr Yanlan Mao, to develop a computational platform to study the mechanical role of the ECM in shaping and maintaining tissue architecture, helping to replace some rodent studies in this area.

During her Fellowship, Nargess will use this experience to adapt the model to make it applicable to tissues with different structures and properties as well as organoid growth and function. To better enable uptake, Nargess will publish the model with a user-friendly graphical user interface. She will develop skills in quantitative imaging, organoid culture and further expand her computational modelling capabilities.




  1. Khalilgharibi N & Mao Y (2021). To form and function: on the role of basement membrane mechanics in tissue development, homeostasis and disease. Open Biology 11(2): 200360 doi: org/10.1098/rsob.200360