Artificial human liver developed for drug testing

A 3D scaffold to cultivate liver cells.
A 3D scaffold to cultivate liver cells.PHOTO: INSTITUTE OF BIOENGINEERING AND NANOTECHNOLOGY

The liver is an important organ in drug testing because all drugs pass through it to be detoxified, a process that reduces or removes harmful substances from the body.

In 2013, researchers at A*Star's Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology developed the first artificial human liver for animal-free drug testing, potentially speeding up drug development.

Said the institute's executive director, Professor Jackie Ying: "The ability to determine drug toxicity at an early stage would lead to significant cost savings for pharmaceutical companies and consumers."

By constructing a microscopic 3D scaffold to cultivate liver cells in a favourable environment, the team managed to make the cells behave very similarly to those in a real liver.

The project was spun off to a start-up, InvitroCue, which debuted on the Australian Securities Exchange last week, and is expanding into China with a laboratory under construction in Suzhou Industrial Park.

Lin Yangchen

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 05, 2016, with the headline 'Artificial human liver developed for drug testing'. Print Edition | Subscribe