a woman working in a lab

Loughborough University awarded £1 million research grant

A research team from Loughborough University has been awarded a £1 million grant to deliver the second phase of the 2020 CRACK IT Challenges.

CRACK IT Challenges is The National Centre for the 3Rs (NC3Rs – Replacement, Reduction and Refinement) open innovation funding competition which brings together industry, academia and SMEs to deliver ready-to-use products and services to replace, reduce and refine animal use.

Led by Professor Mark Lewis and Dr Andrew Capel from the University’s School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, the team will further investigate Challenge 37: STRATIS having completed phase one of the project in 2021.

The aim of this challenge is to develop a bioengineered tissuemodel that mimics human musculoskeletal injury and regeneration, providing researchers with a tool to develop and screen potential new therapies in high-throughput, and ultimately aid in reducing the use of animals in biological research.    

The platform must offer a model for novel wound therapeutics and approaches to restore form and function after significant soft tissue injury.

Dean of Loughborough’s School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, Professor Mark Lewis, explained:

"Following injuries that are caused by high-energy traumas, such as those resulting from military/combat environments, soft tissue is observed to continually degrade even once treated. This affects the recovery of the patient and has long-term implications for their ability to function in daily life.

“In this research, we will develop a laboratory grown soft tissue model of traumatic injury in humans, that creates new understanding in why soft tissue fails to recover in this situation.

“Identifying the biological processes that cause this issue, will allow us to test new targeted therapeutics that may be able to aid soft tissue regeneration in this setting.”

Dr Andrew Capel added:

"Our group at Loughborough has significant track record in using in vitro tissue engineering techniques to investigate human musculoskeletal physiology at the cell level.

“However, a key aspect of this research is to ensure that this technology is broadly accessible to others in the field.

“We hope that by making these systems commercially available, we will be able to provide a human relevant alternative to the use of animals, while decreasing the time taken to propose new therapies.”

The research project is due to start in March 2022 with the first findings delivered in early 2023.

Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 22/52

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world for sports-related subjects in the 2021 QS World University Rankings and University of the Year for Sport by The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2022.

Loughborough is in the top 10 of every national league table, being ranked 7th in The UK Complete University Guide 2022, and 10th in both the Guardian University League Table 2022 and the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2022.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’ and is in the top 10 in England for research intensity. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

The Loughborough University London campus is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities. It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.