Dr Gregory T. Baxter, Hurel Corporation, HµREL Corporation
Hurel, An In Vivo Surrogate Assay Platform for Cell-Based Studies
Accurate prediction of human response to potential pharmaceuticals is difficult, often unreliable, and invariably expensive. Traditional in vitro cell culture assays are of limited value because they do not accurately mimic the complex environment a drug candidate is subjected to within the human body. While in vivo animal studies can account for the complex intercellular and inter-tissue effects not observable from in vitro assays, animal studies are expensive, labor intensive, time consuming, and unpopular. In addition, there is considerable concern whether animal studies can predict human risk precisely enough because, first, there is no known mechanistic basis for extrapolation to low doses, and second, cross-species extrapolation has been found to be frequently problematic with respect to toxicity and pharmacokinetic characteristics. To address these limitations, Hurel Corp. has developed an interactive, cell-based microfluidic biochip. The Hurel system consists of living cells segregated into interconnected “tissue” or “organ” compartments. The organ compartments are connected by a re-circulating culture medium that acts as a “blood surrogate”. The fluidics are designed such that the primary elements of the circulatory system and more importantly, the interactions of the organ systems, are accurately mimicked. Drug candidates are exposed to a more realistic animal or human physiological environment thus providing higher and more accurate informational content than traditional in vitro assays. By affording dynamic assessment of potential toxicity, metabolism, and bioavailability, the device’s capabilities hold the potential to markedly improve the prioritization of drug leads prior to animal studies.