The International Congress on in vitro Toxicology (ESTIV2018) organised by the European Society of Toxicology was held in Berlin this October 2018. This year marks its 20th meeting, with the general theme of new approach methodologies for in vitro toxicology applications, with presentations that covered topics ranging from regulatory toxicology updates and developments to bioengineering and stem cell models.
The Newcells Biotech team was also in attendance; Development Scientist Git Chung presented a poster on in vitro proximal tubule models, whereas PhD student Ivo Djidrovski gave a short talk on stem cell-derived lung airway models.
Given their pluripotency and robustness, it is no surprise that many of the emerging in vitro models currently being developed and used in toxicology are stem cell-based. Indeed, more than half the speakers at the meeting mentioned stem cell technologies in their presentations. Paula Alves from New University of Lisbon spoke on the establishment and refinement of culture systems for efficient stem cell differentiation. She was able to show stem cells maturation into cardiac, neural and hepatic cells, as well as these matured cells’ applicability for long-term toxicity testing. Newcells Biotech very own Ivo spoke on the development of the 2D and 3D lung airway models from systemic toxicity induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC). He demonstrated successful differentiation of the iPSCs to a functioning lung airway model containing basal cells, ciliated cells, and alveolar type I and II cells. This model could then be further optimised for use in toxicity testing and analysis of responses to toxicants.
Alongside these emerging in vitro models, there is growing emphasis on the development and use of adverse outcome pathways (AOPs) to elucidate the etiology of toxicity, as highlighted by Angela Mally from University of Würzburg. She spoke about the joint Dutch-German venture to implement the AOPs as the initial basis for the development of any in vitro assays. Focusing on the kidney as an exemplary key target organ of toxicity, her presentation covered the development and critical evaluation of AOPs leading to proximal tubule injury, and the application of a mechanistic framework to derive suitable in vitro endpoints reflecting key events across the AOPs.
Newcells Biotech’s validated in vitro proximal tubule model is used by several pharma companies to screen their compounds would certainly benefit from the AOP framework as it would provide more mechanistic data on renal toxicity. This is one of the channels Newcells Biotech is steering its technologies and applications towards, as this would be a valuable platform to enhance the work of many toxicologists.
Elsewhere in the meeting, lots of buzz were generated when a well-known “Gates” figure who crashed the conference. Granted, he was a guest of another conference that was happening in the hall next door but had mistakenly wandered into the wrong talks. Nonetheless, many of the delegates had their “Window” of opportunity to catch a glimpse of this said guest. It just goes to show, anything could happen at a toxicology meeting…