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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

Optimising human stem cell models to decipher signals and responses during organogenesis

A collection of test tubes containing coloured liquid

At a glance

In progress
Award date
February 2023 - February 2025
Grant amount
Principal investigator
Professor Jennifer Nichols
University of Edinburgh


  • Replacement
Read the abstract
View the grant profile on GtR



Why did we fund this project?

This award aims to further develop “gastruloid” technology using human stem cells to replace the use of mice in early human developmental studies.

Gastrulation is the process where organs develop in an embryo following implantation in the uterus. Most research to understand the molecular processes of gastrulation uses mice, where embryos are removed from culled pregnant animals. Gastrulation can also be modelled in vitro using gastruloids. These are 3D cell cultures, which are derived from mouse embryonic stem cells (ESCs) and can be differentiated into tissues with a similar physical and molecular structure to embryonic tissues. The NC3Rs has previously invested in gastruloid technology with fellowship funding to Dr David Turner. David is now a co-investigator on the grant with Professor Jennifer Nichols. Jennifer has developed a protocol to generate gastruloids from human ESCs, increasing the relevance of this technology to human development. Jennifer and colleagues will now use the human model to determine developmental processes during gastrulation, focusing on gut and limb development, further expanding the replacement potential of gastruloid technology.

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