A few weeks ago I wrote a blog comparing the character "Flat Stanley" to the long-standing, traditional method of cell culture, and also explaining how three dimensional (3D) cell culture methods could help provide a more relevant model for drug discovery. Last week further evidence was seen to support this shift when BioTek's Flat Stanley hit the road with me to attend the High-Content Analysis and Phenotypic Screening Conference in San Diego, CA. This conference, apart from providing a wealth of information for those looking to learn more about cellular imaging, highlights another important shift in drug discovery, which is the re-emphasis of methods to analyze the final phenotypic effect of a test molecule during early screening; away from the target-based approach which has been in place since the 1990s. Here again, a significant amount of attention was placed on the incorporation of physiologically relevant 3D cell models into the screening process during plenary sessions of both conference tracks.
Of interest during the 3D focused talks was the high level of attention given to incorporating 3D cell models into toxicity screening…particularly hepatotoxicity. It has become generally accepted that primary human hepatocytes, when aggregated into a 3D configuration, maintain higher levels of cell viability and functionality compared to 2D cultured hepatocytes. Therefore, inclusion of these “microtissues” provides the ability to generate a clearer picture of the potential toxic effect of lead molecules.
BioTek has partnered with 3D cell culture providers to demonstrate how the combination of in vitro liver models, appropriate assay technologies, and image-based analysis can provide procedures for measuring hepatotoxic effects that are both robust, yet easy to perform.
By: BioTek Instruments, Brad Larson, Principal Scientist