Growing cells on synthetic PIC gel could save millions of mice
Growing cells on synthetic PIC gel could save millions of mice

Paul Kouwer receives grant for development animal-free mini organs

Together with his project group, Paul Kouwer has received a Create2Solve grant from ZonMw for his project ‘Transition to Animal-Free Organoids’(TRAFO). With this 100,00 euro grant, researchers from Radboud University will collaborate with HUB Organoids to develop an animal-free method to grow mini organs (organoids).

It is already possible to take important steps in the development of medicines without using lab animals. For example, scientists can grow animal-free mini organs in the lab. However, the material needed to grow these mini organs is derived from mouse tumours. Millions of mice are bred and killed every year for this purpose. Moreover, the material is highly variable, which hampers direct comparison of results from the culture experiments.

To address these disadvantages, scientists from Radboud University will now work together with HUB Organoids to optimize the application of a synthetic alternative: the PIC gel.


Previous research already showed that the synthetic PIC gel, that was discovered and developed at Radboud University, is suitable for culturing human cells. Kouwer: “In our lab, we have demonstrated that the PIC gel is also suitable for organoid cultures, but this grant allows us to optimise growth and development of the mini-organs. Beyond showing that the PIC gel works just as well as, I want to highlight that it is animal-free and more practical to use. It is a great opportunity to do this in close collaboration with HUB, which is the international Key Opinion Leader in organoid research and applications.”

During phase 1 of the TRAFO project, scientists will optimise the PIC gel to make and use mini intestines. The Create2Solve programme, however consists of two phases; the second phase will be awarded to the most successful projects. 

Kouwer: “In the second phase, I want to roll out everything we have learned from the intestinal organoid experiments much more broadly, for example by growing other organoids and by making the entire culture 100% animal-free. At the same time, I want to demonstrate that our organoids are closer to human organs than the currently available models. On top of that, I am really looking forward the opportunity in the 2nd phase to bring the gel to the market, via a spin-off from Radboud University. This commercialization ensures that the gel becomes much better available to the business community and the research community. And that we are no longer dependent on millions of mice for our organoid experiments.”


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Molecules and materials