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How are emerging drug discovery technologies transforming bioassay development?
In recent years, there have been significant advances in technologies and their application to biology that have impacted drug discovery. Excitingly, this rapid rate of innovation shows no sign of slowing down, offering drug discovery researchers vast possibilities when it comes to bioassay development.
Here we highlight some of the upcoming trends in drug screening technologies that could greatly enhance the impact of your research, helping you to build even more sophisticated bioassays and keep you at the forefront of drug discovery.
Innovations in automated liquid handling and mixing
When working with compounds dissolved in dimethyl sulphoxide (DMSO), there’s often a compromise to be made between compound solubility and toxicity in your bioassay. With the added complication of reliably moving small volumes of liquids from one destination to another, finding the optimum balance can be tough. An exciting solution to this problem is a new technique that uses high-frequency sound to move extremely low volumes of compound to each well of the plate. This ensures very low final concentrations of DMSO are present in the bioassay.
Sound waves have also been applied to help with in-plate mixing procedures. This advancement allows you to mix reagents after they’ve been added to the plate, to ensure all the reagents within your bioassay are homogenous.
3D cell culture for enhanced physiological relevance
In tissues, cells exist in three dimensions (3D), often with cell-to-cell interactions taking place around the plasma membrane. Recapitulating these interactions in vitro is therefore important for a physiologically relevant model. Studies have shown that cells do indeed behave differently in a 3D format, as compared to a 2D format.
As such, a 3D format may thus allow you to detect more promising drug candidates, with higher chances of successful development down the line.
3D bioprinting to generate human tissues in vitro
Innovations in 3D printing technologies are increasingly being applied to biotechnology applications. Using this technique, it is possible to create tissues by printing layers of different cell types in the same culture environment. Not only is this technology showing promise in revolutionising regenerative medicine, it could also become an invaluable tool in drug discovery.
Using 3D bioprinting, scientists can now create an experimental model that is more relevant to tissue physiology. Applying this to drug screening could uncover compounds that have positive effects on biological targets, which otherwise wouldn’t have been found using only 2D cell cultures.
Acoustic mass spectrometry for ultra-high-throughput screening
Mass spectrometry (mass spec) is a common technique used to identify molecules in a solution. This innovative take on the technology uses sound to send a sonic pulse through a liquid sample, creating a ‘mountain of liquid on the surface’, which is then fragmented by a second explosive pulse. These liquid droplets then pass through the charged field of the mass spectrometer to be measured in an ultra-high-throughput manner.
As such, implementing this innovative technique as part of your drug discovery research could enhance your throughput and so reduce your timelines, helping speed up the translation of your research into new medicines!
Bioassays in early drug discovery: a key tool for any research programme
Keeping up-to-date with the very latest bioassay technologies is essential to ensure your research will continue to make the greatest impact possible. This blog has highlighted some of the novel techniques that could enhance your bioassay development. These include how 3D cell cultures and bioprinting have the power to create more physiologically relevant disease models and how developments in liquid handling and mass spec allow you to perform analyses at smaller volumes, and at higher throughputs.
Our previous blogs focused on the importance of bioassays in early drug discovery and considered the key principles underpinning their success. We also discussed practical tips to building an effective bioassay, how to determine whether your bioassay is fit-for-purpose and addressed some of the common challenges you might face when designing a great bioassay.
All this information can be found in our free eBook, which provides key insights into building reliable and cutting-edge bioassays to facilitate your search for the next breakthrough drug.