TAP Biosystems and the U.K.’s Open University (OU) established a partnership to develop 3-D human central nervous system (CNS) tissue models based on TAP’s collagen RAFT technology for drug discovery and preclinical drug testing. The aim is to manufacture gel-based neural tissue models using glial cells and neurons that can be used for research and for applications including preclinical screening of drug candidates.
TAP’s RAFT (real architecture for 3-D tissue) platform has been designed to enable the creation of complex 3-D cell cultures from collagen, in a simple-to-use 96-well plate format. TAP claims that the system requires less than an hour to generate up to 96 cell cultures simultaneously.
The aim is to generate CNS tissue equivalents that closely mimic the cells’ in vivo environment. “2-D cell cultures of astrocytes and neurons don’t behave in the same way as they do in a living organisms, and this can limit their range of uses,” explains James Phillips, Ph.D., at the Open University’s Faculty of Science. “We are using the RAFT process with astrocyte-seeded collagen gels. The cellular alignment created then allows the other types of cells in our 3-D tissue model to organize themselves as they would in a natural environment.”
This 3-D level of organization will make it possible to simulate and monitor the interaction between glial cells and regenerating neurons, for example after CNS injury, the partners claim. The ability to control variables in the tissue model environment will also facilitate the study of glial and neuronal cell response to drug candidates.
“Such models could contribute to generating more accurate data from novel therapies and may even result in a reduction of the numbers of animal studies necessary for screening potential neuroprotective therapies,” suggests Rosemary Drake, Ph.D., TAP’s CSO.
The firm’s collaboration with OU comes less than a month after TAP announced receipt of additional funding from the U.K.’s Technology Strategy Board to support development of a RAFT-based biomimetic cornea into initial human trials. The project is being undertaken in partnership with scientists the Institute of Ophthalmology at University College London.