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Primary cells- A valuable in vitro model for drug toxicity studies

In pharmaceutical industry, toxicological studies are a prime requirement either for the development of new drugs or for extending the therapeutic potential of existing drugs. Toxicity studies aim to examine any adverse events or reactions such as cancer, cardio toxicity, liver toxicity and skin or eye irritation to ensure safe administration of drug for treatment. Pre clinical studies with animals are routinely done to examine the toxicity of drugs before administering drug to patient. With the advent of cell culture techniques and concern over animal usage in research, in vitro studies have become a valuable tool to study problems of clinical relevance, especially those related to drug screening and studies of cell toxicity mechanisms. Current practice in pharmacy research involves both primary cells (cells derived from specific organs) and immortalized cell lines. Primary cells possess many following advantages over cell lines for studying toxicity of drug molecules-

1. As primary cells can be derived from human tissues, possess species specificity in experiments. The data obtained with human tissue derived primary cells can be more relevant in comparison to animal studies due to species difference associated with animals.

2. Primary cells not only provide species specificity, but also possess organ specific properties. The toxic effects of drugs can be assessed on specific organ with using primary cells derived from specific organs like liver cells, pancreas, lung cells etc.

3. Primary cells express more likely the same proteins and genes as their in vivo cell types in comparison to cell lines and so provide a better experimental model.

With cell culture studies and animal experiments, we are able to define the overall and the selective potential of drugs in a better way.

Reference articles

1. Wang K et al, Advantages of in vitro cytotoxicity testing by using primary rat hepatocytes in comparison with established cell lines, The Journal of Toxicological Sciences.

2. Shuaizhang Li et al, Development and application of human renal proximal tubule epithelial cells for assessment of compound toxicity, Curr Chem Genom Transl Med.

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