Current and Future Application of Genetic Toxicity Assays: The Role and Value of In Vitro Mammalian Assays

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Abstract

With the advent of new technologies (e.g., genomics, automated analyses, and in vivo monitoring), new regulations (e.g., the reduction of animal tests by the European REACH), and new approaches to toxicology (e.g., Toxicity Testing in the 21st Century, National Research Council), the field of regulatory genetic toxicology is undergoing a serious re-examination. Within this context, Toxicological Sciences has published a series of articles in its Forum Section on the theme, “Genetic Toxicity Assessment: Employing the Best Science for Human Safety Evaluation” (beginning with Goodman et al.). As a contribution to the Forum discussions, we present current methods for evaluating mutagenic/genotoxic risk using standard genotoxicity test batteries, and suggest ways to address and incorporate new technologies. We recognize that the occurrence of positive results in relation to cancer prediction has led to criticism of in vitro mammalian cell genetic toxicity assays. We address criticism of test results related to weak positives, associated only with considerable toxicity, only seen at high concentrations, not accompanied by positive results in the other tests of standard test batteries, and/or not correlating well with rodent carcinogenicity tests. We suggest that the problems pointed out by others with these assays already have been resolved, to a large extent, by international groups working to update assay protocols, and by changes in data interpretation at regulatory agencies. New guidances at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration improve data evaluation and help refocus risk assessment. We discuss the results of international groups working together to integrate new technologies and evaluate new tests, including human monitoring. We suggest that strategies for identifying human health risks should naturally change to integrate new technologies; however, changes should be made only when justified by strong scientific evidence of improvement in the risk assessment paradigm.

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