Drug Screening with 3D Cell Cultures
Dresden/Germany, March 18, 2021. On the basis of a license agreement with the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE) and the Leibniz Institute of Polymer Research Dresden (IPF), the Dresden-based start-up “Neuron-D GmbH” is developing a high-throughput system for testing drug candidates to treat neurodegenerative diseases. The technology is based on a 3D cell culture method jointly developed by the DZNE and IPF, which replicates key features of neurons in the human brain and the pathology associated with neurodegeneration much better than conventional methods.
The development of new drugs requires extensive testing. Before promising compounds can enter human trials, they must first prove their value in the laboratory. This requires appropriate analytical devices, so-called assays, to test the effect of pharmaceutical substances as realistically as possible. For this purpose, Neuron-D applies a special technique for the production of cell cultures. “In most methods for creating cell cultures from human neurons, the cells only interconnect on flat surfaces. Using our approach that involves innovative biomaterials called starPEG-heparin hydrogels, the cells link in three dimensions. This results in structures that are very similar to the human brain’s plexus. And the way individual neurons develop in our cell cultures also recapitulates what happens in our brains. We therefore speak of a reductionist, experimental brain model,” explained Dr. Caghan Kizil, co-founder and CEO of Neuron-D.
Dr. Kizil, who co-developed the cell culture technique as a research group leader at the DZNE’s Dresden site, adds: “We can replicate relevant physiological features of human neurons better than with conventional cell cultures. This allows us to draw more realistic conclusions about the effect of the substances under investigation. Our patented 3D brain model is customizable, cost effective and delivers fast results, making it unique and innovative.”