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“Synthetic” Livers Reduce Need for Lab Animals

7 APR 2014

This week, the AAPS blog looks at a brand new innovation in pharmaceutical testing that could mean a vast reduction in the need for animal subjects. The technology is known as Biomimiks and was developed by a company called Imperiko. The product is a chemosynthetic liver that can simulate or “mimic” how the real organ responds to new medicines. It’s a groundbreaking discovery for science, and an important step toward resolving the ethical dilemma of destroying countless animal lives in the service of drug development. The blog post, “Synthetic” Livers Reduce Need for Lab Animals, reflects that animal testing is ubiquitous, and that

Every new therapy from cancer treatments to neurological therapies is first tested for safety on animals before being administered to humans. With few viable alternatives, clinical research and drug discovery has continued to rely on animal testing as an unavoidable evil. That is, until now. Focused on finding more humane solutions, scientists around the world are coming up with some astonishingly innovative animal-free testing options. One of the most promising is called Biomimiks, which manages to replicate liver function in a test tube, rather than in a lab animal.

The synthetic liver is a chemical cocktail that is able to process new drugs just like an animal or human liver would. In particular, it reveals the toxicity of molecular by-products – the parts of a drug that are left behind in the body once the liver has done its job. It is these by-products, or metabolites that can cause dangerous side effects, and depending on their severity can halt the process of testing altogether.  Drug trials are commonly derailed by toxic metabolites, which results in a continuous loss of animal life as researchers go back the drawing board and initiate new tests. Biomimiks technology promises a faster, more efficient – and certainly more ethical – alternative for bringing the therapies we need to market.