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UD Researcher Developing New Way To Test Drugs

Engineering researcher Kristen Comfort is building cellular models that mimic the human body to test new drugs faster.

A University of Dayton researcher is creating a different way to study drugs that could potentially shorten the time it takes to develop them.

Credit Ann Thompson / WVXU
Kristen Comfort says her testing method could take years off the time it takes to test new drugs.

The National Science Foundations has awarded Assistant Chemistry and Bioengineering Professor Kristen Comfort a five-year $542,000 CAREER grant. The first year she plans to build a 3-D cellular model that mimics the human body. This could potentially reduce the time it takes to test new drugs, some taking as long as 25 years  from "benchtop to bedside."

She says, "So big picture where this would fit in is we can use this enhanced model to pick out our best chances of therapeutics and then once we find a couple of these send them forward in the process to animal models and eventually to the clinical trials."

What Comfort is doing that others have not

Comfort says she will incorporate 3-D cultures, multicellular systems and fluid flow models into realistic body systems. She also plans to study how nanomaterials interact with the body's systems to deliver the drugs. "Traditional tissue cultures are typically static. You sit them in an incubator and they stay there. These cultures are two-dimensional, grown in a single layer. but humans are 3-D beings with systems where everything is moving."

One model will incorporate lung, liver and skin components to replicate how people inhale a material. It  is filtered through the liver and settles in the skin. Another model will act like an immune system. Comfort will monitor the cell systems as they communicate.

"If we have 20 different drugs, this model can help us identify which one is able to be delivered to a target at high enough concentrations to be both effective and safe."