Animal teratogenicity testing

Bailey J, Knight A, Balcombe J. The future of teratology research is in vitro. Biog Amines 2005; 19(2): 97-146.
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Birth defects induced by maternal exposure to exogenous agents during pregnancy are preventable, if the agents themselves can be identified and avoided. Billions of dollars and man-hours have been dedicated to animal-based discovery and characterisation methods over decades. We show here, via a comprehensive systematic review and analysis of this data, that these methods constitute questionable science and pose a hazard to humans. Mean positive and negative predictivities barely exceed 50%; discordance among the species used is substantial; reliable extrapolation from animal data to humans is impossible, and virtually all known human teratogens have so far been identified in spite of, rather than because of, animal-based methods. Despite strict validation criteria that animal-based teratology studies would fail to meet, three in vitro alternatives have done so. The embryonic stem-cell test (EST) is the best of these. We argue that the poor performance of animal based teratology alone warrants its cessation; it ought to be replaced by the easier, cheaper and more repeatable EST, and resources made available to improve this and other tests even further.