Application of Immunocompetent Microphysiological Systems in Drug Development: Current Perspective and Recommendations

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Xiaoting Wang
Anna K. Kopec
Mark Collinge
Rhiannon David
Christian Grant
Rhiannon N. Hardwick
Aaron Navratil
Nirav Patel
Wendy Rowan
Nikki Marshall


Immune responses are heavily involved in the regulation and pathogenesis of human diseases, including infectious diseases, inflammatory and autoimmune conditions, cancer, neurological disorders and cardiometabolic syndromes. The immune system has been considered as a double-edged sword serving as a powerful host defense mechanism against infection and cancerous cells and causing detrimental tissue damage when the immune response is exaggerated or uncontrollable. One of the challenges in studying the efficacy and toxicity of drugs that target or modulate the immune system is the lack of suitable preclinical human models that are predictive of human response. Recent advancements in human microphysiological systems (MPS) have provided a promising in vitro platform to evaluate the response of immune organs ex vivo, to investigate the interaction of immune cells with non-lymphoid tissue cells, and to reduce the reliance on animals in preclinical studies. The development, regulation, trafficking, and responses of immune cells have been extensively studied in preclinical animal models and clinically, providing a wealth of knowledge by which to evaluate new in vitro models. Therefore, the application of immunocompetent MPS in drug discovery and development should first verify that the immune response in an MPS model recapitulates complexity of the human immune physiology. This manuscript reviews biological functions of immune organ systems and tissue-resident immune cells and discusses contexts-of-use for commonly used immunocompetent and immune organ MPS models. Current perspective and recommendations are provided to guide the continued development of immune organ and immunocompetent MPS models and their application in drug discovery and development.

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Wang, X., Kopec, A., Collinge, M., David, R., Grant, C., Hardwick, R., Navratil, A., Patel, N., Rowan, W. and Marshall, N. (2022) “Application of Immunocompetent Microphysiological Systems in Drug Development: Current Perspective and Recommendations”, ALTEX - Alternatives to animal experimentation. doi: 10.14573/altex.2205311.

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