A comparison of in vitro cytotoxicity assays in medical device regulatory studies

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Medical device biocompatibility testing is used to evaluate the risk of adverse effects on tissues from exposure to leachates/extracts. A battery of tests is typically recommended in accordance with regulatory standards to determine if the device is biocompatible. In vitro cytotoxicity, a key element of the standards, is a required endpoint for all types of medical devices. Each validated cytotoxicity method has different methodology and acceptance criteria that could influence the selection of a specific test. In addition, some guidances are more specific than others as to the recommended test methods. For example, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO1) cites preference for quantitative methods (e.g., tetrazolium (MTT/XTT), neutral red (NR), or colony formation assays (CFA)) over qualitative methods (e.g., elution, agar overlay/diffusion, or direct), while a recent ISO standard for contact lens/lens care solutions specifically requires a qualitative direct test. Qualitative methods are described in United States Pharmacopeia (USP) while quantitative CFAs are listed in Japan guidance. The aim of this review is to compare the methodologies such as test article preparation, test conditions, and criteria for six cytotoxicity methods recommended in regulatory standards in order to inform decisions on which method(s) to select during the medical device safety evaluation.HIGHLIGHTSPaper provides a comparison of cytotoxicity assays for medical devices to inform test selection decisions.Quantitative cytotoxicity tests are preferred over qualitative methods.Results are impacted by test article preparation, exposure times, test conditions, and criteria.The choice of the methods is critical for results and success or failure of a product.Results should be viewed in a full battery of biocompatibility tests to avoid false positive/negative classification.

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