The use of functional human tissues in drug development

Cell Tissue Bank. 2011 Feb;12(1):31-2. doi: 10.1007/s10561-010-9213-5. Epub 2010 Sep 8.


Fresh, functional human tissues have long been considered the closest possible model of human in vivo function and can be used to measure a wide range of pharmacological responses. Despite this, relatively little drug development is conducted using fresh human tissue because of the logistical and ethical difficulties surrounding the availability of tissue and practicalities of experimental work. Most tests of drug activity require a living test system comprising cells, tissues or whole organisms. In some instances, "living" (fresh) human tissues have the potential to reduce or replace animal tests through superior prediction of drug safety and efficacy. Before functional human tissue tests become a routine part of drug development, two factors must co-exist. Firstly, organisations such as Biopta must continue to create compelling evidence that human tissues are more predictive than alternative models; such evidence will drive demand from the pharmaceutical industry for human tissue-based tests. Secondly, the vast number of tissues and organs residual to surgery or unsuitable for transplant must be routinely consented for medical research and made available to all researchers in an equitable and timely manner. This requires a concerted effort throughout the NHS and consistent demand as well as financial support from researchers, particularly within industry. It is our view that the next 5-10 years will generate compelling evidence of the value of functional human tissue-based tests and recognition that more efficient use of residual or non-transplantable tissues and organs is an urgent priority for the development of new medicines.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomedical Research
  • Drug Discovery*
  • Drug Industry
  • Humans
  • Organ Specificity*
  • United Kingdom