Can in vitro drug metabolism studies with human tissue replace in vivo animal studies?

Environ Toxicol Pharmacol. 2006 Feb;21(2):184-90. doi: 10.1016/j.etap.2005.07.008. Epub 2005 Aug 2.


Animals provide a physiologically relevant system for evaluation of drug metabolism, but marked inter-species differences limit extrapolation to humans. Liver microsomes are used extensively as an in vitro human drug metabolising system, and with appropriate selection of parameters, such as substrate and enzyme concentrations, may predict both routes and rate of metabolism. However, variable enzyme expression between donors and overlapping substrate specificity influence reproducibility, hence recombinant human CYP enzymes expressed in human, yeast or insect cells have been developed. For complex metabolic profiles involving sequential or competing pathways, isolated hepatocytes and liver slices are of value. Altered enzyme activity and restricted availability constrain their use. Cryopreservation or culture increase availability, but changes in enzyme activity remain a constraint. To date, human in vitro systems do not predict all aspects of drug metabolism, thus a combination of in vivo animal and in vitro human studies will be required for the foreseeable future.