An Introduction to the Tissue Culture Engineering Laboratory (TCEL)
Background to our project
The toxicity of new pharmaceutical drugs has to be determined before people use them. This is done by a long series of tests on cells in culture and animals. Drugs that ‘pass’ are then tested in clinical trials on humans. Unfortunately, more than 90% of these new drugs are then shown in these clinical trials to be poisonous and the development of drug has to be abandoned. This means that animal testing is unreliable, people are exposed to unnecessary risk and that the cost of drugs is much higher than it need be. Currently it costs $800 million to develop and obtain permission to sell one drug. It has been estimated that by improving toxicological testing by just 10% this cost could be reduced by $100 million per approved drug.
Head of research: Associate professor, PhD Stephen John Fey
Researchers and research group:
Postdoc Krzysztof Wrzesinski
Laboratory technician Kira Eyd Joensen
Status and goals
In the TCEL group, we are developing a new way to grow human liver cells in ‘3 dimensional’ cultures so that they behave very similar to the liver in our bodies. By growing the immortal hepatocytes in specially designed bioreactors (see figure), they form small pieces of ‘pseudotissue’ which exhibit several of the functions seen in the adult liver (see picture).
||The main goal of the TCEL group is to develop this technology further and determine whether it can supplement (or eventually replace) the use of primary hepatocytes currently used as the gold standard for drug testing. If our technology is successful (and of course we are convinced that it will be), this could reduce animal testing, risks to humans, the development time and costs of drugs. The chemical and cosmetic industries face similar toxicological problems and our technology could equally well be applied there.
We anticipate that our technology can also be used with other cell types assisting them also to differentiate and ‘recover’ their in vivo
functional-phenotype. This may be especially useful for helping stem cells to differentiate to higher degree than currently seen. This type of research would lead to a much better understanding of the roles that the different cells play in tissues and organs. Eventually this would lead to better in vitro
models for understanding disease development.
Please don’t ever hesitate to come and talk with us – with questions or ideas or suggestions – we will welcome the interaction and the coming collaboration.
Krzysztof, Kira, Signe Marie & Steve