ESR 10: Development of an ex-vivo liver model to study drug treatment.




Project Title: Development of an ex-vivo liver model to study drug treatment.

Objectives: Within LifeTec Group (, several ex-vivo organ platforms based on slaughterhouse animal tissues have been developed as an ethically well-considered partial alternative to animal tests, amongst which the BioLiver platform. In this platform, harvested livers can be connected to a perfusion system allowing the liver tissue to remain alive.

The ESR will focus on improving the biological state of the liver tissue such that the liver becomes a representative model of the in-vivo situation. Secondly, the project will focus on creating pathological conditions for the liver tissue and study the response of (pathological) liver tissue on (pharmacological) treatments. From an engineering and perfusion perspective, the existing engineering team can support the development. The ESR is expected to focus on the biology/physiology of the tissue, identifying biological processes that need to be screened in order to obtain healthy or pathological tissue responses, as well as identifying assays and pathways to monitor those tissue responses to the platform and to interventions. The ESR will collaborate with biologists and clinicians within the consortium to learn about tissue biology and interactions.

Expected Results: An acute setting of an ex-vivo liver that may be used to study liver interventions and medical devices used therein. A medium term liver culturing platform that would allow tissue response studies to said interventions, specifically also tissue response to drug exposure in an animal-friendly approach. Whereas before in the animal trial phase one could only study tissue response at the end of the experiment, and in bench testing one could only quantify drug delivery on non-tissue materials, we expect that we can now obtain information on the tissue itself and its response to the drug throughout the culturing period, and not only observe drug delivery but also drug uptake and possibly distribution in the tissue. The culturing protocols and the platform in which the liver wil be cultured ex-vivo, may result in new insights for donor organ transport and conditioning.


Main Supervisors: Melanie Krueger (LIFETEC GROUP), Marco Stijnen (LIFETEC GROUP)

Duration: 36 months

Planned Secondment: MAAST (2 months) for interface of biology and engineering in regenerative medicine during the first year, AACHEN (2M) on tissue pathology and analysis methods during second year, ACCELERA (1 month) on business and regulatory aspects of biological/pharmacological contract research during third year.

Enrolment in Doctoral Degree: PhD in Bioengineering at Politecnico di Milano

Profile: An ideal ESR candidate will hold a Master’s degree and have excellent marks from his/her previous studies and courses along with experience in one or more of the relevant fields. Excellent written and oral communication skills in English are a must.

Furthermore, the candidate has/is:

  • A MSC degree in Biology, Biotechnology, Biomedical Engineering, Technical Biology or equivalent title
  • Enthusiastic about pursuing an interdisciplinary research project within an industrial organization
  • Knowledge and experience in working with perfusion systems
  • Knowledge and experience in hepatology and/or toxicology

For any specific requests on this project, please get in contact with Marco Stijnen (