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The future of teratology research is in vitro

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Jarrod Bailey


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Birth defects induced by maternal exposure to exogenous agents during pregnancy are preventable, if the agents themselves can be identified and avoided. Billions of dollars and man-hours have been dedicated to animal-based discovery and characterisation methods over decades. We show here, via a comprehensive systematic review and analysis of this data, that these methods constitute questionable science and pose a hazard to humans. Mean positive and negative predictivities barely exceed 50%; discordance among the species used is substantial; reliable extrapolation from animal data to humans is impossible, and virtually all known human teratogens have so far been identified in spite of, rather than because of, animal-based methods. Despite strict validation criteria that animal-based teratology studies would fail to meet, three in vitro alternatives have done so. The embryonic stem-cell test (EST) is the best of these. We argue that the poor performance of animal-based teratology alone warrants its cessation; it ought to be replaced by the easier, cheaper and more repeatable EST, and resources made available to improve this and other tests even further. © VSP 2005.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Bailey J, Knight A, Balcombe J

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: Biogenic Amines

Year: 2005

Volume: 19

Issue: 2

Pages: 97-145

ISSN (print): 0168-8561

ISSN (electronic): 1569-3910


DOI: 10.1163/1569391053722755