PORTLAND, Ore. - Oregon Health & Science University researchers have figured out how to turn a mouse into a factory for human liver cells that can be used to test how pharmaceuticals are metabolized.
The technique, published in the journal Nature Biotechnology, could soon become the gold standard not only for examining drug metabolism in the liver, which helps scientists determine a drug's toxicity. But it also can be used as a platform for testing new therapies against infectious diseases that attack the liver, such as hepatitis C and malaria.
"This has the potential, if it becomes easy to use and widely available, to change the way drugs are tested," said study leader Markus Grompe, M.D., professor of molecular and medical genetics, and pediatrics, OHSU School of Medicine.
"In terms of fostering research, this will be great for malaria, this will be great for hepatitis, this will be great for liver stem cells, this will be great for gene therapy. It will allow a lot of what's going on only in rodents to be taken into a much more clinical setting. So I'm very happy about it."
Arundeep S. Pradhan, director of OHSU's Technology & Research Collaborations office, which is responsible for transferring the university's research discoveries to the commercial sector, said market demand for Grompe's discovery is high. OHSU has filed a patent application on the technology and, in cooperation with Grompe, has spun it off into a Portland-based start-up company named Yecuris through the university's Springboard Program.
"Yecuris is a viable start-up company based on significant developments at OHSU," Pradhan said. "The products developed by Yecuris have the potential to ease one of the bottlenecks in drug development: the testing of drugs for liver toxicity."
The worldwide market for human liver cells the pharmaceutical industry uses for testing candidate drug compounds is estimated at $2 billion a year, according t
Contact: Jonathan Modie
Oregon Health & Science University