Goal 2: Reduce Human Disease

Making It Real: Affordable Physiologically Relevant In Vitro Environments

We have done the best we can to mimic the human internal environment in vitro for the discovery, testing, and validation of therapeutics, but there is a critical need to do better. The use of more complex cell-based in vitro models is the result of the recognition of how little predictive power there is in current experimental conditions, even with animal models. With an in vitro environment that goes beyond temperature to encompass accurate human local oxygen levels, nutrients, shear stress, cell-cell interactions, and other factors, not only is the time and money to bring effective chemical therapeutics to patients drastically reduced, but cellular therapeutics benefit as well. If we can get it right in vitro, we get it right in vivo.

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Is this idea a Compelling Question (CQ) or Critical Challenge (CC)? : Critical Challenge (CC)

Details on the impact of addressing this CQ or CC :

Physiologically relevant in vitro environments could potentially impact research on every tissue type, disease, and intervention, including transfusion-based treatments. Basic research, drug-testing, and translational medicine would all be fundamentally altered. Individualized medicine, cellular therapies, and regenerative medicine could all benefit from in vitro conditions that best support the care of the patient's cells and guide those cells in the direction needed for effective treatment.

Feasibility and challenges of addressing this CQ or CC :

Research and Industry are in the early stages of developing the techniques and know-how needed to address the technical challenges in establishing human-relevant in vitro environments. We already have the technology to control in vitro oxygen and other critical gas components. Mimicking cell-cell interactions and variable cell states such as states of differentiation or stress are areas under active research. Computational and analytical techniques are being developed that can gain insight from large data sets. More of a challenge may be assessing distant effects like metabolism of drugs by the liver or potential drug and cellular interactions with the external environment. However, making a human-predictive in vitro environment affordable is the challenge that could define success or failure of any particular approach. It is feasible within the next ten years to have truly predictive in vitro environments for drug cellular therapy development.

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Idea No. 123