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Reprod Toxicol. 2011 Sep;32(2):235-44. doi: 10.1016/j.reprotox.2011.04.008. Epub 2011 May 6.

The embryonic stem cell test combined with toxicogenomics as an alternative testing model for the assessment of developmental toxicity.

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  • 1Laboratory for Health Protection Research, National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), Bilthoven, The Netherlands.


One of the most studied in vitro alternative testing methods for identification of developmental toxicity is the embryonic stem cell test (EST). Although the EST has been formally validated, the applicability domain as well as the predictability of the model needs further study to allow successful implementation of the EST as an alternative testing method in regulatory toxicity testing. Genomics technologies have already provided a proof of principle of their value in identification of toxicants such as carcinogenic compounds. Also within the EST, gene expression profiling has shown its value in the identification of developmental toxicity and in the evaluation of factors critical for risk assessment, such as dose and time responses. It is expected that the implementation of genomics into the EST will provide a more detailed end point evaluation as compared to the classical morphological scoring of differentiation cultures. Therefore, genomics may contribute to improvement of the EST, both in terms of definition of its applicability domain as well as its predictive capacity. In the present review, we present the progress that has been made with regard to the prediction of developmental toxicity using the EST combined with transcriptomics. Furthermore, we discuss the developments of additional aspects required for further optimization of the EST, including kinetics, the use of human embryonic stem cells (ESC) and computational toxicology. Finally, the current and future use of the EST model for prediction of developmental toxicity in testing strategies and in regulatory toxicity evaluations is discussed.

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