Determine side effects through stem cell test

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Antibody-based therapies make up a large part of newly developed drugs. But as they are specifically tailored for humans, side effects cannot be proven with animal trials. Therefore tests on human cells are necessary. British researchers have now used stem cells to create a reliable testing method.

In “The FASEB Journal”, the scientists from Imperial College London describe their method: Current tests use endothelial cells, which are normally only grown from tissue removed in surgery or post mortem, or from umbilical vessels after birth. The potential new drugs are tested on a combination of the endothelial cells and white blood cells from a different donor. But because they are taken from two different donors, test results are not always reliable.

The researchers’ new approach was to isolate stem cells from the blood of a volunteer, and use them to grow endothelial cells in a dish. They then took white blood cells which they added to the donor’s own endothelial cells to recreate the unique conditions found in their blood vessels.

“As biological therapies become more mainstream, it’s more likely that drugs being tested on humans for the first time will have unexpected and potentially catastrophic effects,” said lead researcher Jane Mitchell. The new test could prevent such effects. Furthermore, it could be used to test personalised therapies to see how safe and effective they will be for an individual, the authors added.

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