Toxicology studies have become a cornerstone of modern medicine. These studies help us ascertain if a chemical compound is harming our body. We use it to determine if a product is safe enough to launch in the market.
Toxicology is a discipline that came about 200 years. Since then it has made astonishing progress over the years. Traditionally tox studies involved only in vivo assays on test organisms. However 21st-century toxicology puts more emphasis on in vitro assays at the molecular and cellular levels. The in silico computational approaches are also gaining momentum as the technology supporting it develops with time.
- In Vivo: This process involves inserting chemical compounds in animal and human test subjects to find how their bodies react to acute exposure. We can also isolate the effect those compounds have on different organs. This helps create safer and healthier chemicals. Though this was the primary way of conducting tox studies in the past, it is now quickly losing relevance due to new animal testing regulations.
- In Vitro: We conduct in vitro: toxicology studies on cells and microorganisms outside of their biological context. This reduces the risk to the subject from which those cells are collected. We expose these cells to different chemicals under laboratory conditions to find out its safety parameters. These initial test tube experiments help us determine the ideal test group for future studies through IND-enabling toxicology studies.
- In Silico: This method uses computer models for chemicals to figure out structure-activity relationships. This gives us data on how those chemicals would bind or interfere with essential function proteins. Researchers consider in silico method to be a new and expanding horizon which will be a pivotal point in tox studies. Computational toxicology is transforming toxicity testing. It is turning it into a system based on in vitro methods rather than one founded on in vivo assays.
Uses and Benefits
The main goal of toxicology is to reduce the damaging effects that a chemical might have on our body. Without toxicology, we cannot design safer chemicals for our products. It helps us plan safer chemical synthesis. This reduces hazards in both industrial production and commercial usage.
Toxicology studies provide the theoretical and practical tools to profile how a chemical behaves in living systems. The development of computational toxicology, using genomics and high-throughput assays coupled with updated chemoinformatics, has enhanced our ability to identify the adverse effects of known compounds. This helps us isolate the problems. And then tweak the chemical composition to reduce or remove the harmful properties.
Toxicology plays a huge role in drug development by determining the dosage parameters. Drug developers also use tox studies to find out the safety margins for drug exposure. They conduct extensive IND enabling toxicology studies to evaluate potential toxicity before human testing and to estimate starting doses for clinical trials. This helps in optimizing the drugs to achieve maximum benefit with minimum adverse effects.
Toxicology studies also have a variety of uses in forensics. It provides clinicians with information about possible drug overdoses or illegal drug usages. Tox studies are an integral part of a criminal investigation where the perpetrator poisoned the victim or gave a drug to incapacitate them.
With the pharmaceutical manufacturers constantly trying to make safer, more sustainable drugs, IND-enabling toxicology studies is of paramount importance. The development of technology has opened up new avenues in this field. And we can expect tox studies to make gigantic leaps in the coming years.