Humanised mice can soon revolutionise drug testing

Last Updated: Jul 12, 2011, 00:00 AM IST

Washington: Scientists have developed an artificial liver that can be transplanted into mice and allow them to metabolise drugs as if they are humans beings, a breakthrough they say could foster more accurate and efficient drug testing.

To create this artificial liver, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US cultured human liver cells, called hepatocytes, in a controlled environment with other factors, such as mouse skin cells.

They then implanted the liver under the skin or inside the body cavity of mice, successfully recreating many of the functions of a human liver.

While previous attempts to engineer "humanised mice" have led to varied, often negative results, the MIT team said this discovery would produce consistently healthy mice that
could emulate human liver functionality, LiveScience reported.

This could result in a number of positive applications such as more effective testing of new drugs, experimenting with metabolic functions and monitoring interactions between multiple types of drugs -- all without using a single human test subject.

Humanised mice can be extremely beneficial to scientists across the world, said lead researcher Alice Chen.

"In the near term, we envision using these mice alongside existing toxicology models to help make the drug development pipeline safer and more efficient," Chen said.

Scientists can also use the mice to study human livers and develop cures to diseases that normal mice don`t contract like hepatitis C or malaria infections

According to Chen, it won`t be long before they are able to mass produce and distribute humanised mice, allowing both industrial and academic scientists to use them for research. This could revolutionise the way researchers test drugs, he said.

"Mice and other laboratory animals do not have the full complement of drug metabolism enzymes that humans do," Chen said.

"As a result, many of the activities, metabolites and resulting toxic effects of human exposure to new drugs cannot be fully predicted by animal tests."

By using mice with human livers, Chen said, scientists will be able to predict human metabolites and toxicities more accurately than they would in animals ? without having to test drugs on humans, which can be pricey and dangerous.

PTI