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Scottish Scientists Developing In Vitro Artificial Liver

Scottish scientists are creating the world’s first artificial liver tissue made from human cells, a technology they say has the potential to both speed up and slash the cost of testing and producing new drugs.

Scotland on Sunday has learned that a team at Heriot-Watt University is using the cells to build liver tissue which will become a testing platform for drugs to treat a range of illnesses. It is hoped that the development of artificial livers will reduce and ultimately replace the need to test medicines on animals.

Will Shu, a lecturer in micro-engineering who is leading the research, said: “The medical benefits could be enormous. Artificial human liver tissues could be very valuable to drug development because they mimic more closely the response of drugs on humans, helping to select safer and more efficient drug candidates.”

With the human cells, the Scottish scientists are working to create miniature human ­liver tissues and have already developed a process known as “livers-on-a-chip” which “prints” the cells in 3D onto testing surfaces.

“This will make it possible for pharmaceutical companies to test new drugs on human livers during pre-clinical trials. The hope is more drug failures would be identified at this early stage and those drugs which proceed past that stage would be more likely to show success in clinical trials,” said Shu.

“On top of this, it is often argued that animal models are not ideal when testing drugs destined for use in humans. If we could establish better in-vitro models than animals using artificial human tissues or organs, the animal testing may ultimately be replaced.”

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