Characterization of a gastrointestinal tract microscale cell culture analog used to predict drug toxicity

Gretchen J. Mahler, Mandy B. Esch, Raymond P. Glahn, Michael L. Shuler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

186 Scopus citations


The lining of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract is the largest surface exposed to the external environment in the human body. One of the main functions of the small intestine is absorption, and intestinal absorption is a route used by essential nutrients, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals to enter the systemic circulation. Understanding the effects of digestion on a drug or chemical, how compounds interact with and are absorbed through the small intestinal epithelium, and how these compounds affect the rest of the body is critical for toxicological evaluation. Our goal is to create physiologically realistic in vitro models of the human GI tract that provide rapid, inexpensive, and accurate predictions of the body's response to orally delivered drugs and chemicals. Our group has developed an in vitro microscale cell culture analog (μCCA) of the GI tract that includes digestion, a mucus layer, and physiologically realistic cell populations. The GI tract μCCA, coupled with a multichamber silicon μCCA representing the systemic circulation, is described and challenged with acetaminophen. Proof of concept experiments showed that acetaminophen passes through and is metabolized by the in vitro intestinal epithelium and is further metabolized by liver cells, resulting in liver cell toxicity in a dose-dependent manner. The μCCA response is also consistent with in vivo measurements in mice. The system should be broadly useful for studies on orally delivered drugs or ingestion of chemicals with potential toxicity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)193-205
Number of pages13
JournalBiotechnology and Bioengineering
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 1 2009


  • Acetaminophen
  • Cell culture analog
  • Drug testing
  • GI tract
  • In vitro
  • Toxicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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