A liver in a test tube to predict the effects of drugs in humans without animal testing

IMG_2107Promising research into chemosynthetic livers that mimic metabolic processes could soon replace the use of rats, mice, rabbits and other animals currently being used to test drugs. The use of chemosynthetic livers could also speed up drug testing.

This technology has been developed by Empiriko, a clinical intelligence technology company using algorithms, advanced analytics, predictive modeling and scientific and clinical interpretation of research data. Empiriko has designed biomimetic systems that emulate biological structure, function, mechanism and reactivity. Biomimicry or biomimetics is the imitation of the models, systems, and elements of nature for the purpose of solving complex human problems.

The chemosynthetic liver technology called Biomimiks™ was presented at a recent meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS). Dr Mukund Chorghade, chief scientific officer of Empiriko Corporation and president of THINQ Pharma. said:

Researchers in drug discovery make small quantities of new potential drug compounds and then test them in animals. … It is a very painstaking, laborious and costly process. Frequently, scientists have to sacrifice many animals, and even after all that, the results are not optimal.

The media release of the ACS explains how this new technology works:

Typically, when researchers are onto a new compound that could address an unmet human health need, they test it on animals to see if it’s toxic before taking it into clinical trials with human subjects. They figure this out by doing something called metabolic profiling. That is, after giving an animal a test drug, the experimental compound does its designated job in the body until the liver breaks it down. Then researchers try to detect the resulting, minute amounts of molecular byproducts, or metabolites. It’s these metabolites that are often responsible for causing nasty side effects that can derail an otherwise promising therapeutic candidate. …  [R]ather than using lab animals, researchers could figure out metabolic profiles of drugs by mixing them in test tubes with chemosynthetic livers.

Chorghade and his team at Empiriko have already demonstrated how Biomimiks™ works with several pharmaceutical compounds. “These chemosynthetic livers not only produce the same metabolites as live animals in a fraction of the time,” Chorghade said, “but they also provide a more comprehensive metabolic profile, in far larger quantities for further testing and analysis.”

Is this technology superior to animal testing? Dr Chorghade thinks so:

Animal models are based on a variety of animal species, which produce different metabolic pathways and don’t necessarily correlate with human pharmacology, leading to variations in efficacy and toxicity of drugs,” Chorghade said. “It is difficult to extrapolate [from animals to humans] the maximum tolerated drug dosing and minimum observed biological effects.

The chemosynthetic livers have not yet been approved to replace animal tests. But Dr Chorghade’s team has tested more than 50 drugs so far to show that the catalysts accurately mimic how the human body processes them. He said that they are working to test 100 drugs, which is the number required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for regulatory approval.

References:

American Chemical Society. (2014). An end to animal testing for drug discovery? Washington DC: ACS.

Empiriko Corporation. (2013). Metabolism profiling: Changing the game with biomimetic oxidation technology. White paper.

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