Microlivers open a new window on drug toxicity

Indications of liver toxicity are a common red flag for drug researchers, responsible for scuttling billions of dollars worth of research work--often at a late stage. But scientists are exploring new ways to create a more effective and efficient testing system for liver toxicity, in one case launching a new company that makes microlivers for researchers to work with.

One scientific team at MIT has been developing three-dimensional microscale livers for testing. And another team at Massachusetts General Hospital says that it has advanced a quicker way to cultivate liver cells, which should make the testing process less expensive. Hepregen, meanwhile, has been set up to market its new microlivers, touting their stability for research programs.

"The liver is definitely the cause of billions--multibillions--of dollars of losses by the big pharmaceutical industry, and the reason is that we don't have a good way of predicting whether these drugs are going to be toxic in humans,'' MIT Professor Steven R. Tannenbaum, tells the Boston Globe. "Some drugs show up toxic to humans in clinical trials, and others don't show up until they're ... basically released to the public.''

- read the article from the Boston Globe