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Why Use Cytotoxicity Screening In Drug Or New Product Discovery

Introduction To Cytotoxicity Screening 

Cytotoxicity screens are used to determine if a test article is causing toxicity issues at the cellular level. Cytotoxicity screening programs are commonly used during drug, consumer product, cosmetic, medical device, or chemical development.

What is the purpose of cytotoxicity screening?

Cytotoxicity screens are a form of in vitro testing. The word In vitro literally translates to “In glass” in Latin and refers to a method of scientific study that utilizes cell and tissue-based models in place of conventional animal models like mice, rats, dogs, or monkeys. Due to the relatively low cost of in vitro models compared to animal models, cytotoxicity assays provide a strong initial screen for companies in new product discovery. 

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How are cytotoxicity screens used 

As more detailed scientific questions get asked in drug development the study cost often increases.  This increase in cost comes from the complexity of the model needed to answer the scientific question as a drug or product moves down the development pipeline. 

With their lower cost, in vitro cytotoxicity screens are often deployed early in the drug or new product discovery process to de-risk a test article from failing in later stage, higher cost, studies. For example, if a test article is causing toxicity at the cellular level, as can be identified with a basic cytotoxicity screen, there will likely be toxicity issues seen in a higher-cost animal study run with the same test article. By running basic cytotoxicity screens early the researcher can keep test articles that show cytotoxicity issues from moving further down the product development pipeline.

In addition to basic cytotoxicity screens, like ATP/LDH, that determine general cytotoxicity, more in-depth cytotoxicity assays can be run to determine the actual mechanism of toxicity. These studies have a slightly higher cost but can be used to investigate the cause of cytotoxic issues. These more advanced cytotoxicity studies thereby give investigators a path to optimizing a product for more favorable toxicological parameters. Areas some of these mechanistic cytotoxicity assays can investigate include mitochondrial toxicity, phospholipidosis steatosis, and oxidative stress.   

Who provides cytotoxicity assays services?

Cytotoxicity assay services are provided by Contract Research Organizations (CROs) that specialize in in vitro methods. CROs that offer in vitro research often offer several other categories of service such as ADME assays or sensitization assays using 3D Tissue models. Several CROs also offer proprietary models and panels of assays to support more advanced drug and product discovery efforts. A simple search online for “cytotoxicity screening” can help you find a number of CROs that can provide cytotoxicity research on contract. 

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