Bielefeld University is coordinating a new EU-research project that seeks to produce microscopic liver tissue cultures that can survive for 14 days, while also using imaging methods to investigate how liver cells react to combinations of different medications.
The backdrop to this project is the fact is that more than 30 percent of adults over the age of 65 in Europe today take at least 5 different medications per day. These drugs are not always well tolerated in combination, which is something that needs to be investigated in greater detail. This is the first research project led by Bielefeld University to be funded by the European Union’s European Innovation Council (EIC).
Prof. Thomas Huser of Bielefeld University is heading the new international research group DeLIVERY, which is funded by the European Union. In this project, the researchers are developing a super-resolution microscopy system to view liver cultures.
Drug interactions are known to occur with some medications, but it is not always clear exactly how drugs work together in the body – and not every liver reacts in the same way to the same mix of active compounds. "Studies have shown that some 10 to 20 percent of hospitalizations among elderly patients stem from a negative reaction to a mix of different medications," says Prof. Dr. Thomas Huser of Bielefeld University. "Their medication must then be re-adjusted."
Huser is a physicist who has been working on the liver and optical imaging of liver cells for more than 12 years. He is coordinating this new EU project called DeLIVERY, which brings together Bielefeld University and five partners from around Europe. "Our goal is to develop a microscopy system for liver cells to test the tolerability of drug interactions," he explains. Such a system for the liver does not currently exist.
The liver cells are to be kept alive in a kind of mini-incubator for at least 14 days, during which the researchers will observe how the liver cells react to certain drugs, drugs in combination, and different dosages. "For this, we have chosen to test the classes of drugs that are most frequently prescribed to elderly people," says Huser.
Just as important as the cell incubator is the imaging that is being developed specifically for DeLIVERY to facilitate these observations, and this is the responsibility of Huser's research group. "We are working on an optical system that can image liver cells in ultra-high resolution without having to remove the cells from the incubator and put them under the microscope," explains Huser. The advantage here is that the cells are not destroyed for future research, as they would be if they were placed on a specimen slide and put under the microscope. Instead, the cells survive.
The European Innovation Council (EIC) will be providing approximately 3 million Euro in funding for this project over a period of four years. "Our goal is to be able to do a biopsy to test how the liver of an individual patient will react to certain drugs and their interaction," says Thomas Huser. Only a few liver cells would have to be biopsied for this – and biopsies are routine procedures in medicine.
MEDICA-tradefair.com; Source: Bielefeld University