“Synthetic” Livers Reduce Need for Lab AnimalsApril 1, 2014
Most of us, even those who wouldn’t call themselves pet-friendly, would love to see an end to animal lab testing. But the truth is, the practice remains central to our discovery of essential new medicines. 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.
Test-tube liver copies the real thing
Imperiko, the company that develops Biomimiks describes the chemosynthetic liver as a catalyst that is able to break down new drugs just like a real liver would. It’s not a copy of the organ, but rather a chemical cocktail that replicates its functions when introduced to medicine. The most essential part of drug testing is observing what happens when the liver breaks down the pharmaceutical, and how the body reacts to the leftover by-products, or metabolites. It’s the metabolites that can cause the nasty side-effects that often halt pharmaceutical quality control in its tracks, and send researchers right back to the drawing board. The chemosynthetic liver can demonstrate this process just like an animal would – but without the devastating loss of life associate with numerous trials.
The Advantages of Biomimiks
In addition to saving countless animal lives, the chemosynthetic liver offers researchers the advantage of faster testing speeds. According to Imperiko’s chief scientific officer, Mukund Choraghade, “these chemosynthetic livers not only produce the same metabolites as live animals in a fraction of the time, but they also provide a more comprehensive metabolic profile, in far larger quantities for further testing and analysis.” So, the test-tube liver actually outperforms the organic version in both efficiency and quantitative yield – proving that Biomimiks represents both an ethical and a scientific advancement.
Industry professionals and students in pharmaceutical courses know that, with the limitations of traditional animal testing, only a mere 8 percent of new therapies make it into our medicine cabinets. Halfway through its FDA approval process, Biomimiks stands to improve not only our rate of successful drug discovery, but our understanding of how multiple drugs interact in the body. Many patients take more than one medicine, combinations that can cause unanticipated side effects. Imperiko has begun using the synthetic liver to test these interactions, and to better anticipate how prescriptions interact with one another and impact patient health.
Once Biomimiks hits the marketplace, do you think regulators should legislate even tougher limitations on the use of lab animals?