Concise Review: Human Pluripotent Stem Cell-Based Models for Cardiac and Hepatic Toxicity Assessment§


  • Author contributions: P.S. and P.B.: conception and design, manuscript writing, final approval of manuscript.

  • First published online in STEM CELLS EXPRESS March 23, 2011.

  • §

    Disclosure of potential conflicts of interest is found at the end of this article.


Considering the costs associated with drug development, there are billions of dollars to be saved by reducing late-stage attrition in the pharmaceutical industries. Reports on the use of human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) and their functional derivatives in applications for safety assessment of drugs have begun to appear in the scientific literature. These reports are encouraging and fuel further developments of improved human cellular models that may increase the clinical relevance and reduce the need of experimental animals in preclinical drug discovery. However, a few factors still limit the general and wide-spread industry implementation of these new stem cell-based models, including cost of manufacture, level of functionality of the differentiated cells, assay validation, verification of human relevance, and benchmarking to conventional models. This review discusses the emerging field of hPSC-based models for drug discovery and development with a focus on cardiac and hepatic toxicity testing and how these approaches may improve current applications used in the pharmaceutical industry. Although much research remains to make hPSC-based models mainstream tools in the industry, importantly, this review highlights currently available opportunities. In addition, a forward looking discussion on novel applications using tissue preparations generated from hPSCs illustrates the opportunities to create complex models in vitro with the aim of simulating the systemic response of a drug in vivo. STEM CELLS 2011;29:744–748