Drug Discovery
Sartorius Live Cell Analysis System
Using Live-Cell Imaging Systems to Transform Perspectives in Drug Discovery

Using Live-Cell Imaging Systems to Transform Perspectives in Drug Discovery

By Helen Stewart-Miller and Dr Kate Tointon

Live-cell imaging has transformed the study of cell behaviour and function. The technique allows researchers to monitor internal cell structures, interactions and processes in real-time, and over time.

In drug discovery, understanding the dynamic processes of cells provides an enhanced picture of drug pharmacology, enabling more reliable predictions of clinical responses earlier in the process. In this article, we highlight some of the key commercial products helping to drive the adoption of this valuable approach and how it could help improve efficiencies and advance the development of medicines.

Traditional imaging experiments in drug discovery involve endpoint measurement approaches that typically use fixed cells requiring staining or artificial labelling (for example, using genetically-encoded fluorescent proteins). These artificial conditions mean that the cells do not sufficiently mimic the complex in vivo cellular responses to pharmacological or molecular perturbations that would be seen in the patient.

“To increase the chance that a drug’s effects in vitro translate to the clinic, cell models must be as physiologically relevant as possible, comments Tim Dale, Head of BioAnalytics Applications, Sartorius Corporation. “We also need to implement new methods to gather information over time. As biology is incredibly dynamic and complex, single snapshots using endpoint measurements cannot provide the full picture.”

Fortunately, a solution has emerged with the advent of novel time-lapse microscopy technologies. These enable powerful imaging analysis of live cells, fresh tissue or live in vivo models, performed in a time-resolved manner. Live-cell imaging enables the monitoring of internal cellular structures, processes and interactions to reliably determine the safety and efficacy of a drug, such as whether it selectively binds to the intended target or whether it has any off-target effects. These insights enable better predictions about which drugs will be successful in clinical development to reduce late-stage attrition.

A more complete picture of cellular processes

As well as offering a better understanding of cell behaviour and function, live-cell imaging offers drug discovery several other advantages over the traditional endpoint approach. This includes the ability to study dynamic cellular processes, behaviour and function from both spatial and temporal perspectives to get an enhanced picture of the pharmacological or molecular effect on the cell. Additionally, as live-cell imaging allows cellular structures to be studied in their native environment, it is less prone to experimental artefacts. This means the technique typically provides more reliable and statistically-relevant information than fixed-cell microscopy....

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