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Prof. Bencherif’s Research Selected for Funding by Thomas Jefferson Fund and FACE Foundation

August 23, 2017

ChE Assistant Professor Sidi A. Bencherif’s research program recently received funding from the Thomas Jefferson Fund and FACE Foundation. The project, titled “Cryogel-integrated biochips for ex-vivo hepatotoxicity and anti-cancer drug screening of 3D biomimetic liver microtissues” is focused on developing naturally derived biomaterials that can be used for tissue engineering, drug delivery, immunotherapy, and studies into fundamental cell-biomaterial interactions. One of their major areas of interest includes designing more realistic in vitro cell culture models to recapitulate the three-dimensional architecture and complexity of human tissues. It is a multidisciplinary research collaborative project between Northeastern University and the University of Technology of Compiègne (Sorbonne University), France.

Current strategies to test drug efficacy or toxicity are predominantly based on in vivo animal models. However, significant species-specific variation between rodents and humans impacts the extrapolation to the clinical situation. More realistic human in vitro models are expected to support toxicity and drug screening assessments and to decrease the risk of drug-induced liver toxicity in the clinic. Current two dimensional (2D) hepatic model systems often fail to predict hepatotoxicity due to the loss of a hepatocyte-specific phenotype in culture. Thus, there is a critical need to develop 3D bioscaffolds to maintain hepatocytes in a 3D environment that closely mimics their natural microenvironment. The objective of this emerging project between the French and American teams is to develop in vitro models for drug testing and toxicity that will not only drive costs down but will more accurately recapitulate human biochemistry and hence recapitulate human reactions to the drugs tested.

“This project is intended to take our research to the next level and to foster a collaborative research relationship in the broad areas of liver tissue engineering and drug screening. The basis of the current research is to bring to light alternative and more realistic platforms that surpass the ones currently used in the field of drug screening,” Prof Bencherif remarks.

The Thomas Jefferson Fund will provide a unique framework to enable promising and innovative projects to reach their full potential and enrich French-American research collaborations. The Fund aims to encourage cutting-edge, multidisciplinary research projects of the highest quality and especially seeks to support emerging collaborations involving a team of younger researchers.