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Cell growth technology promises more successful drug development
Date:9/18/2007

Scientists have developed unique technology to grow stem cells and other tissue in the laboratory in conditions similar to the way they grow in the human body.

The technology, developed and patented by scientists at Durham University and its spin-out company ReInnervate Limited, is a plastic scaffold which allows cells to be grown in a more realistic three-dimensional (3D) form compared to the traditional flat surface of a Petri dish.

Evidence gathered by the research team shows that the technology is a cheap and straightforward way of cultivating cells in 3D. Using it could lead to more successful drug development programmes and a reduction in unnecessary tests on animals.

A study proving the effectiveness of the scaffold, funded by ReInnervate and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), is published today in the Journal of Anatomy.

A large proportion of drugs fail at the testing stage, costing industry millions of pounds in research and development costs and failed drugs trials every year. At the moment, most drugs in development are first tested on cells grown in two-dimensions (2D) in standard laboratory equipment such as Petri dishes or flasks but cells in the human body form tissues and grow in more complex, three-dimensional ways.

The new study tested the toxic effect of a cancer drug called Methotrexate (MTX) on liver cells grown in three and two dimensions. Liver cells are frequently used in the drug development industry to test the toxicity of drugs and MTX is known to cause liver damage at high doses.

Tests showed that the structure and properties of the cells grown using the 3D scaffold were most similar to liver cells found in the human body, compared with the 2D cells which appeared disorganised when viewed under the microscope.

When subject to doses of MTX, cells grown in 2D died at very low concentrations, whereas 3D cells grown using the scaffold were
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Contact: Dr. Stefan Przyborski
stefan.przyborski@durham.ac.uk
44-191-334-1341
Durham University
Source:Eurekalert

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