21st Century Cell Culture for 21st Century Toxicology
There is no good science in bad models. Cell culture is especially prone to artifacts. A number of novel cell culture technologies have become more broadly available in the 21st century, which allow overcoming limitations of traditional culture and are more physiologically relevant. These include the use of stem-cell derived human cells, cocultures of different cell types, scaffolds and extracellular matrices, perfusion platforms (such as microfluidics), 3D culture, organ-on-chip technologies, tissue architecture, and organ functionality. The physiological relevance of such models is further enhanced by the measurement of biomarkers (e.g., key events of pathways), organ specific functionality, and more comprehensive assessment cell responses by high-content methods. These approaches are still rarely combined to create microphysiological systems. The complexity of the combination of these technologies can generate results closer to the in vivo situation but increases the number of parameters to control, bringing some new challenges. In fact, we do not argue that all cell culture needs to be that sophisticated. The efforts taken are determined by the purpose of our experiments and tests. If only a very specific molecular target to cell response is of interest, a very simple model, which reflects this, might be much more suited to allow standardization and high-throughput. However, the less defined the end point of interest and cellular response are, the better we should approximate organ- or tissue-like culture conditions to make physiological responses more probable. Besides these technologic advances, important progress in the quality assurance and reporting on cell cultures as well as the validation of cellular test systems brings the utility of cell cultures to a new level. The advancement and broader implementation of Good Cell Culture Practice (GCCP) is key here. In toxicology, this is a major prerequisite for meaningful and reliable results, ultimately supporting risk assessment and product development decisions. Graphic Abstract
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