New Solution: A human micro-liver system for reliable safety and efficacy testing

The liver plays an important role in drug metabolism and is susceptible to injury, making drug-induced hepatoxicity a leading cause of attrition during preclinical and clinical drug development. Current in vivo and in vitro models used to assess drug-induced hepatotoxicity and drug metabolism do not always accurately predict human responses, leading to questions about the utility of these models and calls for more predictive tools based on human biology.

Researchers from the University of Naples Federico II have developed a novel human liver-on-a-chip model which combines human hepatocyte-like microtissues cultured dynamically under flow to more closely mimic the in vivo environment. Cultured in this setting, the microtissues exhibit greater viability and more stable morphology, metabolic activity and function more representative of the native tissue. These factors combined offer exciting opportunities for more predictive preclinical safety and efficacy testing and greater translation of results to humans.

The immediate application for this liver-on-a-chip model is in the assessment of new medicines for their potential to induce hepatotoxicity prior to animal studies. However, the chemicals sector where large numbers of animals are used for toxicology screening under the REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of Chemicals) regulations, and the food industry for the testing of nutraceuticals, offer alternative end user markets.

Industrial partnerships are now being sought to further develop/characterise and validate the device to expand its use beyond basic biology and into application to test new drugs, chemicals and nutraceuticals. Potential partners should be able to provide advice, compounds (or nutraceuticals), and preclinical and clinical datasets for comparison.

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