Functional Coupling of Human Microphysiology Systems: Intestine, Liver, Kidney Proximal Tubule, Blood-Brain Barrier and Skeletal Muscle

Sci Rep. 2017 Feb 8:7:42296. doi: 10.1038/srep42296.


Organ interactions resulting from drug, metabolite or xenobiotic transport between organs are key components of human metabolism that impact therapeutic action and toxic side effects. Preclinical animal testing often fails to predict adverse outcomes arising from sequential, multi-organ metabolism of drugs and xenobiotics. Human microphysiological systems (MPS) can model these interactions and are predicted to dramatically improve the efficiency of the drug development process. In this study, five human MPS models were evaluated for functional coupling, defined as the determination of organ interactions via an in vivo-like sequential, organ-to-organ transfer of media. MPS models representing the major absorption, metabolism and clearance organs (the jejunum, liver and kidney) were evaluated, along with skeletal muscle and neurovascular models. Three compounds were evaluated for organ-specific processing: terfenadine for pharmacokinetics (PK) and toxicity; trimethylamine (TMA) as a potentially toxic microbiome metabolite; and vitamin D3. We show that the organ-specific processing of these compounds was consistent with clinical data, and discovered that trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO) crosses the blood-brain barrier. These studies demonstrate the potential of human MPS for multi-organ toxicity and absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion (ADME), provide guidance for physically coupling MPS, and offer an approach to coupling MPS with distinct media and perfusion requirements.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Biological Transport / drug effects
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / physiology*
  • Cholecalciferol / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Intestines / physiology*
  • Kidney Tubules, Proximal / physiology*
  • Liver / physiology*
  • Metabolome
  • Methylamines / metabolism
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Organ Specificity
  • Terfenadine / pharmacology


  • Methylamines
  • Cholecalciferol
  • Terfenadine
  • trimethylamine