neural tube defect

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Molecular Targets and Early Response Biomarkers for the Prediction of Developmental Toxicity In Vitro

Michael Stigson, Kim Kultima, Måns Jergil, Birger Scholz, Henrik Alm, Anne-Lee Gustafson and Lennart Dencker

There is an urgent need for new in vitro methods to predict the potential developmental toxicity of candidate drugs in the early lead identification and optimisation process. This would lead to a reduction in the total number of animals required in full-scale developmental toxicology studies, and would improve the efficiency of drug development. However, suitable in vitro systems permitting robust highthroughput screening for this purpose, for the most part, remain to be designed. An understanding of the mechanisms involved in developmental toxicity may be essential for the validation of in vitro tests. Early response biomarkers — even a single one — could contribute to reducing assay time and facilitating automation. The use of toxicogenomics approaches to study in vitro and in vivo models in parallel may be a powerful tool in defining such mechanisms of action and the molecular targets of toxicity, and also for use in finding possible biomarkers of early response. Using valproic acid as a model substance, the use of DNA microarrays to identify teratogen-responsive genes in cell models is discussed. It is concluded that gene expression in P19 mouse embryocarcinoma cells represents a potentially suitable assay system, which could be readily used in a tiered testing system for developmental toxicity testing.
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