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Utilizing virtual experiments to increase understanding of discrepancies involving in vitro-to-in vivo predictions of hepatic clearance


Predictions of xenobiotic hepatic clearance in humans using in vitro-to-in vivo extrapolation methods are frequently inaccurate and problematic. Multiple strategies are being pursued to disentangle responsible mechanisms. The objective of this work is to evaluate the feasibility of using insights gained from independent virtual experiments on two model systems to begin unraveling responsible mechanisms. The virtual culture is a software analog of hepatocytes in vitro, and the virtual human maps to hepatocytes within a liver within an idealized model human. Mobile objects (virtual compounds) map to amounts of xenobiotics. Earlier versions of the two systems achieved quantitative validation targets for intrinsic clearance (virtual culture) and hepatic clearance (virtual human). The major difference between the two systems is the spatial organization of the virtual hepatocytes. For each pair of experiments (virtual culture, virtual human), hepatocytes are configured the same. Probabilistic rules govern virtual compound movements and interactions with other objects. We focus on highly permeable virtual compounds and fix their extracellular unbound fraction at one of seven values (0.05-1.0). Hepatocytes contain objects that can bind and remove compounds, analogous to metabolism. We require that, for a subset of compound properties, per-hepatocyte compound exposure and removal rates during culture experiments directly predict corresponding measures made during virtual human experiments. That requirement serves as a cross-system validation target; we identify compound properties that enable achieving it. We then change compound properties, ceteris paribus, and provide model mechanism-based explanations for when and why measures made during culture experiments under- (or over-) predict corresponding measures made during virtual human experiments. The results show that, from the perspective of compound removal, the organization of hepatocytes within virtual livers is more efficient than within cultures, and the greater the efficiency difference, the larger the underprediction. That relationship is noteworthy because most in vitro-to-in vivo extrapolation methods abstract away the structural organization of hepatocytes within a liver. More work is needed on multiple fronts, including the study of an expanded variety of virtual compound properties. Nevertheless, the results support the feasibility of the approach and plan.

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