All You Need to Know about the Use of Cell-Based Assays for Toxicology Tests

All You Need to Know about the Use of Cell-Based Assays for Toxicology Tests
Assay of standardized animal-based studies has always been used to study toxicity and its effects. Unfortunately, however, these animal-based tests fail to detect all the compounds that might induce adverse reactions in human beings and hence do not provide the required mechanistic information about observed toxicity in sufficient detail.

This is why an alternative to these conventional animal-based toxicity tests is needed. The ideal alternative can be found in the field of toxicogenomics, which takes advantage of advanced emerging technologies in proteomics, genomics, and bioinformatics.

An Overview of Cell-Based Assays for Toxicology Testing

These technologies enable researchers to gain a deep and molecular lever comprehension of toxicity. The predictive power of toxicity testing in the risk/safety assessment during the development of various drugs is also enhanced through this method.

Additionally, various governmental agencies are now showing a renewed interest in supplementing the animal-testing process with a range of mechanistically informative in-vitro assays. This is because they are both more accurate and less resource-intensive.

The issues and challenges associated with using cell-based assays for toxicology tests need to be highlighted and the advantages of this process need to be understood clearly by all parties involved. Only then can the scientific community effectively reap all the many benefits of these new technologies and methodologies.

The Role of Toxicogenomics

Toxicogenomics is essentially a relatively new and emergent discipline in the field of toxicology, which has been made possible by the rapidly emerging biomarker technologies and the massive genomic research projects of recent years. Ever since the concept was introduced in 1991, research in the field of toxicogenomics has been robust and growing rapidly.

In the beginning, toxicogenomic research was geared towards assessing toxicity with the help of a process known as gene expression profiling. The high throughput nature of microarray technology encouraged this approach to toxicogenomics in the early days. However, the scope of this emergent discipline soon expanded to include metabolomic and proteomic technologies which were being rapidly adapted for use in toxicology tests.

The adoption of a growing arsenal of molecular technologies for the purpose of toxicology research culminated in the advent of the path-breaking Genome-Wide Association Study (GWAS) and the Next Generation Sequencing (NGS).

Bioinformatics tools and biomarker technologies were soon included to further enhance the scope of toxicogenomics, which helped researchers identify and characterize suspected toxicants while determining predictive biomarkers for safety and risk assessments. This has led to renewed interest in the investigation of a new generation of high throughput cell-based assays in the domain of toxicology.

Toxicology Testing with the Help of Cell-Based Assays

Target identification in drug discovery and lead screening are two of the domains in which cell-based assays have always been in use. However, until recently, the applicability of cell-based assays in toxicology has not been fully determined and proved by evidence-based research.

The renewed interest in the use of cell-based assays for toxicology testing stems largely from the current advancements made in the fields of sensitive detection and automated fluid handling and imaging. These scientific advancements enable efficient and quantitative analysis of the various mechanisms associated with cytotoxicity.

It has been found, over the years, that in vitro cellular prototypes rarely correlate well with those found in human and animal pathologies. Therefore, the current strategy involves the combination of common toxicities seen in humans or animals with functional responses of multiple cell types in vitro, with the help of machine learning approaches.

The initial step needed is to use a few sets of chemical compounds (about a thousand) that contain extensive animal toxicity data. This will facilitate the development and verification of toxicity signatures or patterns in the in vitro assay data that correlate perfectly with specific toxicity endpoints. For instance, some such programs include nine or ten in-vitro assays with over 300 chemicals measuring more than 520 features of a range of cellular prototypes.

Researchers using cell-based assays for toxicology tests may compile chemical sets that include more than a hundred human drugs with well-documented human toxicities. This can then be used to develop a set of in vitro assays that can be used for the purpose of generating toxicity signatures to reduce the need for animal testing and better predict human toxicities through the process of cell-based assay testing.
In Conclusion

These are some of the reasons for the growing popularity of cell-based assays in the domain of toxicology tests. These assays have the significant benefit of being accurate, efficient, and cost-effective. And emerging technologies in the world of toxicity testing will only make them more accurate, affordable, and easy to avail over time.

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