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Phenotypic Screening for Pharmaceuticals Using Tissue Constructs

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Compounds can be screened for pharmaceutical activity either by detecting interactions with specified target molecules such as receptors or enzymes (molecular screening) or observing effects on the structure or physiological activities of cells or tissues (phenotypic screening). Screening at the molecular level has been greatly enhanced by fluorescence methods. Especially the combination of confocal detection with measurements of the amplitudes and time courses of fluorescence fluctuations have reduced sample volumes to 100,000 compounds per day. Screening at the molecular level, however, does not provide information about the effects of test compounds on cellular functions. Phenotypic screening, although much slower than molecular screening, does provide information about effects on cell or tissue structure or function and therefore can be used to eliminate at an early stage compounds that are toxic or do not produce the desired cellular response. Tissue constructs reconstituted using cells of specified types and defined extracellular matrix components provide test systems for detecting the effects of test compounds on cellular mechanical functions such as the development of contractile force and on cell and matrix structure and stiffness. For example, constructs based on vascular smooth muscle cells provide information about effects on cellular contractile force that can be used to identify agents that control blood pressure. Tissue constructs that mimic skeletal, smooth and heart muscles and connective tissues have been produced and can be used to study mechanical and structural responses to active compounds.

Keywords: high throughput screening; phenotypic screening; tissue constructs; tissue mechanics

Document Type: Review Article


Affiliations: Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, Washington University School of Medicine, 660 South Euclid Ave., St. Louis, MO 63110, USA.

Publication date: 2004-04-01

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  • Current Pharmaceutical Biotechnology aims to cover all the latest and outstanding developments in Pharmaceutical Biotechnology. Each issue of the journal contains a series of timely in-depth reviews written by leaders in the field covering a range of current topics in both pre-clinical and clinical areas of Pharmaceutical Biotechnology. Current Pharmaceutical Biotechnology is an essential journal for academic, clinical, government and pharmaceutical scientists who wish to be kept informed and up-to-date with the latest and most important developments.
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