T. Hammond, P. Allen, H. Birdsall
May 16, 2016
Even the finest state-of-the art preclinical drug testing, usually in primary hepatocytes, remains an imperfect science. Drugs continue to be withdrawn from the market due to unforeseen toxicity, side effects, and drug interactions. The space program may be able to provide a lifeline. Best known for rockets, space shuttles, astronauts and engineering, the space program has also delivered some serious medical science. Optimized suspension culture in NASA’s specialized suspension culture devices, known as rotating wall vessels, uniquely maintains Phase I and Phase II drug metabolizing pathways in hepatocytes for weeks in cell culture. Previously prohibitively expensive, new materials and 3D printing techniques have the potential to make the NASA rotating wall vessel available inexpensively on an industrial scale. Here we address the tradeoffs inherent in the rotating wall vessel, limitations of alternative approaches for drug metabolism studies, and the market to be addressed. Better pre-clinical drug testing has the potential to significantly reduce the morbidity and mortality of one of the most common problems in modern medicine: adverse events related to pharmaceuticals.