The MatTek Story — How the Three Rs Principles Led to 3-D Tissue Success!
John Sheasgreen, Mitch Klausner, Helena Kandárová and David Ingalls
MatTek Corporation has been working diligently for over 15 years to replace traditional animal-based toxicity and efficacy tests with alternative test methods based on human-cell derived, three-dimensional (3-D) tissue models. First discussed in detail by W.M.S. Russell and R.L. Burch 50 years ago in their book, The Principles of Humane Experimental Technique, and now fully integrated into forward-looking publications such as Toxicity Testing in the 21st Century: A Vision and a Strategy, the concept of replacing animals in test procedures with human cells and/or human cell-derived in vitro 3-D tissues is being embraced by the world’s research scientists and toxicologists at an ever-increasing rate. 3-D in vitro models are being utilised not only for humanitarian reasons, but also because human 3-D tissues, in particular, produce more-physiologically relevant scientific data. Early on in MatTek’s efforts to develop this alternative test method, senior management sought the assistance of experts within the in vitro testing and animal rights communities, to help define the specific in vitro human 3-D tissue products needed and navigate the regulatory landscape, especially in Europe where the replacement of animal-based testing with non-animal alternative test methods was well underway. MatTek was fortunate to receive that expert assistance on both fronts from Professor Michael Balls, who at that time was the newly-elected first director of ECVAM. In 1997, with the guidance and support of Professor Balls and others in the animal rights community, MatTek began the effort to validate several of its human 3-D tissue-based alternative test methods. Today, two MatTek human cell-derived 3-D tissue-based test methods are validated as full replacements for existing animal-based tests, with more tests in the validation pipeline. In addition, MatTek in vitro tissue models are in use worldwide by chemical, pharmaceutical and consumer product companies, as evidenced by citations in hundreds of patents and scientific articles from these industries. This article concludes with MatTek’s thoughts on the direction that human 3-D tissue-based in vitro testing will take in the future.