MatTek are world leaders in the development and commercialisation of human tissue models. In this very special edition we welcome our first guest blogger, Margaux Babineau, Director of Marketing and Customer Engagement at MatTek Life Sciences, who shines the light on the work it takes to bring these essential novel technologies to the world. 

Animals are historically poor indicators of human clinical outcomes, but for lack of better methods animal testing has been required by U.S. regulatory agencies to ensure consumer safety for nearly 100 years. The disadvantage is that rodents, rabbits, and dogs don’t share enough biological and physiological similarities with humans, making the data from animal experiments unreliable and poorly predictive of human outcomes in clinical trials. Researchers working on critical therapies are confronted with an astronomical late-stage failure rate as a result, and patients are left waiting 12-15 years for the development and approval of new medicines and treatments. The evidence from the decades since animal testing was first required by law demands that we create better scientific tools.  

“Rodents, rabbits, and dogs don’t share enough biological and physiological similarities with humans, making the data from animal experiments unreliable and poorly predictive of human outcomes in clinical trials.”

Tissue culture insert

MatTek Life Sciences was first formed in 1985 in the labs at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has pioneered the science behind alternatives to animal testing. MatTek scientists recognized the limitations of traditional animal testing and the need for a better method to evaluate the safety and functionality of products destined for consumer use. They developed biologically active lab-grown human tissues of the skin, eye, and respiratory and digestive systems that deliver a clearer prediction of human responses and are used worldwide as ethical and predictive testing technology.  

“Active lab-grown human tissues…that deliver a clearer prediction of human responses.”

EpiDerm, the original lab-grown human skin tissue, has been providing reliable data predictive of human outcomes for over 30 years. Along with other MatTek tissues, it has multiple regulatory acceptances and validations from organizations like the OECD and US EPA to predict the irritation, corrosion, and photosensitivity potential of chemical, pharmaceutical, cosmetic, and other skin care products. EpiDerm has been most impactful as a replacement for the Draize Rabbit Skin Test, developed in 1944 and still in use today, which is notoriously cruel and overestimating of human responses.

The cosmetics industry first spearheaded the shift towards alternative methods, mainly driven by consumer distaste for animal testing and the recognition that better methods existed to evaluate irritation and sensitivity. Companies like LUSH and Unilever have made non-animal testing part of their missions and have been instrumental in encouraging other companies and industries to explore and benefit from alternative methods. This shift gained momentum over the years and today nearly every major cosmetic company proudly proclaims that their products are not tested on animals. We’ve seen this trend continue with personal care and chemical products, and pharmaceutical companies have also begun to recognize the effectiveness of lab-grown tissues as part of drug discovery and preclinical testing. If we can understand how an ingredient or molecule affects human tissue in the preclinical phase, there is a greater chance of success in clinical trials.   

“The technology is easily accessible, available worldwide, and with a footprint a fraction of the size of animal testing facilities”

Product formulation scientists in these industries are now empowered to obtain human-relevant responses that are more predictive of clinical outcomes. The technology is easily accessible, available worldwide, and with a footprint a fraction of the size of animal testing facilities, it provides a sustainable, streamlined testing option with reduced costs and timelines to get reliable results into the hands of researchers faster. With industry and regulatory acceptances gathering momentum, and the recent introduction of the FDA Modernization Act into the U.S. Congress, legislation and policy is catching up to the science and recognizing that these tools achieve the goals of reliable consumer protection, and the continual reduction of outdated animal testing methods.   

“MatTek tissues spared an estimated 95,000 laboratory animals in 2021.”

MatTek tissues spared an estimated 95,000 laboratory animals in 2021 and our work carries on with robust R&D efforts to enhance the complexity of existing tissues and the development of additional human organs. Our goal is to represent and connect every human organ system in a single platform that provides insight into human biology and a map to human outcomes. The future of testing is bright, humane, and the future of testing is here now.

Written by Margaux Babineau.