The number of candidate chemicals or drugs for registration and authorization is increasing at a fast rate and only few of the existing substances have been tested for teratogenicity to date. Therefore, there is high pressure on authorities to accept models like the whole embryo culture as a screening system for safety evaluation procedures. In view of this background the gradual development of the whole embryo culture into a standardized, scientifically validated tool for developmental toxicology during the last 70 years is summarized. The methodological development of the culture technique is described with the completion, improvement and refinement of the basic culture method as main intention. Special attention was paid to different culture techniques, culture media, gassing schedules, and evaluation strategies. Furthermore the importance of taking "in vitro pharmacokinetics" into consideration when a comparison of in vitro/in vivo results from embryotoxicity testing is intended, is stressed. Additionally, the demonstration of the broad spectrum of useful scientific applications when using this culture system in combination with sophisticated analytical techniques is demonstrated. Finally, an overview on different strategies for the validation of this culture system as an in vitro embryo toxicity test is provided and the officially accepted formal validation process for this application is summarized. The successful validation makes the whole embryo culture a complex in vitro embryotoxicity test with high accuracy and predictability. This robust in vitro system modelling the main phase of rodent organogenesis with a high reproducibility is valuable enough to attract special attention in related scientific fields.
Keywords: culture, embryotoxicity test, in vitro, Whole embryo culture, embryo, endpoints, validation, standardization
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