Dan Stanton, Managing editor

October 10, 2018

2 Min Read
4D bioprinting and stem cells: Firms look to alternatives to animal testing
Bioprinting organs could offer an alternative to animal models in preclinical testing. Image: iStock/NosUA

Servier will use 4D bioprinting technology to imitate human liver tissue in vitro, while STEMCELL Technologies is commercializing human pluripotent stem cell-derived kidney organoids. But can these models replace animal testing in preclinical research?

French drugmaker Servier has (bio)inked a deal with Poietis to use its 4D bioprinting technology for the development and production of liver tissues. The tissue will be used to imitate human liver tissue in vitro in Servier’s preclinical testing.

Poietis’ technology works through the “layer-by-layer additive biofabrication of functional 3D tissues with a very precise and highly resolutive technology assisted by laser which helps to position different cell types in a 3D environment,” Bruno Brisson, co-founder and VP Business Development at Poietis told BioProcess Insider.

3d-bioprint-NosUA-300x169.jpg

Bioprinting organs could offer an alternative to animal models in preclinical testing. Image: iStock/NosUA

“The 4th Dimension is the necessary maturation time for printed cells in different layers in three dimensions to become a functional and self-organized tissue. 4D bioprinting approach consists in programming tissue self-organization by designing tissue constituent organizations – cells and extracellular matrix – that evolve in a controlled way until specific biological functions emerge,” he said.

Animal free?

According to Brisson, regulators are keen to see the development and evaluation of such models for in vitro purposes. Furthermore, he told us such tech “might be of interest to limit the use of animals” in preclinical research.

When asked what will help encourage further adoption of such models, he said: “The diffusion of the technology itself, i.e. making the bioprinting process and systems user friendly, affordable, safe, and precise enough to address the issues of tissue engineering and manufacturing.”

Meanwhile, Canadian firm STEMCELL Technologies has signed an exclusive license agreement with Brigham and Women’s Hospital for the rights to commercialize technologies for the generation of human pluripotent stem cell-derived kidney organoids.

Organoids, or mini-organs, are potential research tools which replicate the bodies organs, in this case providing a framework for renal physiology, injury and disease at distinct developmental stages.

“Organoids can be used in place of – or as a supplement to – animal models for pre-clinical research,” a STEMCELL spokesperson told us.

However, “cell based models will likely not fully replace animal models in the future, but they do provide an alternative in many cases.”

Brain-on-a-dish

And speaking as part of a press tour of the Radboud University Medical Center in Nijmegen, The Netherlands, technician Jason keller said that animal models do not equal drug efficiency.

“There is a push right now to find platforms that will be more predictive than animal models,” he told journalists, including BioProcess Insider editor Dan Stanton.

Keller is currently working on a ‘brain-on-a-dish’ model made of a patient’s stem cells and is testing this with anti-epilepsy drugs to help find a potential treatment for Dravet Syndrome, a genetic disease which currently does not have a predictive tool available for drug discoverers.

About the Author(s)

Dan Stanton

Managing editor

Journalist covering the international biopharmaceutical manufacturing and processing industries.


Founder and editor of Bioprocess Insider, a daily news offshoot of publication Bioprocess International, with expertise in the pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors, in particular, the following niches: CROs, CDMOs, M&A, IPOs, biotech, bioprocessing methods and equipment, drug delivery, regulatory affairs and business development.


From London, UK originally but currently based in Montpellier, France through a round-a-bout adventure that has seen me live and work in Leeds (UK), London, New Zealand, and China.

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