Researchers use cell-based assays extensively in drug research and discovery as these assays provide tons of information in this regard. The pharmaceutical industry is still facing a challenge to bring down the high attrition rates that take place due to the high amount of toxicity during the developmental stages of a drug.

Why Use Cell-Based Assays in Drug Research and Discovery?

Cell-based assays help in streamlining the drug development and discovery process. Furthermore, the implementation of cell-based assays helps avoid efficacy and toxicity issues that often crop up during clinical trials.

The cell-based assay provides tons of data regarding cellular viability, off-target effects, drug mechanisms, and cellular processes. In 2016, it was estimated that the cell-based assays captured $17 billion and were expected to touch $28 billion by 2021, with the US capturing half of the global market.

Chronic diseases like cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer, neurodegenerative health conditions, and obesity have been accounted for as the leading cause of death in the United States. The rising number of incidences has led to researchers using cell-based assays more and more in drug research and discovery. The ultimate goal is to research, discover, and create new therapies and avenues of treatment and also to release them in the market promptly. Apart from creating new drugs, the cell-based assays also provide detailed insight into disease mechanisms and thus help scientists and researchers expand their knowledge base by identifying new pathways and therapeutic targets.

Different Types of Cell-Based Assays

There are diverse types of cell-based assays. These assays can also be arranged to suit the specific needs of researchers depending on the kind of drug being discovered. The signal readout can also vary depending on what is being measured, namely, radioactivity, fluorescence, colorimetric, or luminescence. These signals can be read using several ways, like plate readers, microscopy, and flow cytometers. Some of the most commonly used assays have been discussed below:

High Throughput Screening (HTS)

Cell-based assays are extensively used in HTS for their feasibility and scalability to test many compounds at the same time under different conditions. Thanks to these features, a good amount of data is extracted that helps researchers identify the right candidate among the drug leads and start the drug discovery process.

Studies on Cytotoxicity

Once the lead candidate is detected, the viability of diseased and healthy cells is determined to see how they behave in the presence of compounds. To determine this viability, it is best to perform the cell-based assay under many incubation and concentration times. There are many ways in which a researcher can measure cell viability. However, one of the most reliable readouts is to assess intracellular ATP.

Cellular Proliferation Assays

This cell-based assay is used to observe the growth rate of cells over a specified period. This assay is helpful as it helps in determining how a drug will affect diseased and normal cells of an organism while in vivo. This is important because cellular proliferation is important for cell and tissue equilibrium. For instance, an ideal compound needs to stop the cancerous cells from growing while allowing the normal healthy cells to grow.

Cell Viability Assays

This cell-based assay determines the ratio between the live and dead cells. The factors that are used to determine the viability of a cell can range from the integrity of the cell membranes to the cell population’s redox potential. The cell viability assays establish the effect of a drug candidate on the cells and are also used to enhance the cell culture conditions.

Cytotoxicity Assays

The cytotoxicity cell-based assay evaluates the number of dead and live cells in a cell population after it is treated with a pharmacological agent or drug candidate that is being investigated.

Cell Senescence Assays

This assay is used to evaluate cell health. For instance, a cell Senescence assay will detect Senescence markers that relate to β-galactosidase activity.

Apoptosis, Autophagy, and Necrosis: The Three Different Cell Death Assays

  • Apoptosis: This cell-based assay is essential for the development, pathogenesis, and homeostasis of different kinds of cancer. Apoptotic cells occur under controlled circumstances as a response to intrinsic or extrinsic signals.

  • Autophagy: This programmed cell death type 2 is used for selected destruction of intracellular targets such as damaged organelles or misfolded proteins. Thus, this cell-based assay serves an essential homeostatic function.

  • Necrosis: This phenomenon is characterized by the swelling of cells and the degradation of subcellular organelles and plasma membranes.

Marin Bio Laboratories uses cell-based assays to measure and detect cell viability, cell proliferation, autophagy, apoptosis, and more. To more about cell-based assay click here.