The evolution of teratological testing

Teratology. 1979 Oct;20(2):205-11. doi: 10.1002/tera.1420200205.


The beginnings of mammalian experimental teratology in this century are briefly reviewed and it is noted that prior to 1960 a degree of sophistication in concept and technology had already been achieved. Thus, contrary to claims that teratology had its beginning with the thalidomide catastrophe, a modest but expanding activity and body of knowledge already existed before this unfortunate event. This activity and this knowledge, however, were largely confined to academic and research institute laboratories and made little impact on the agencies in medicine, government and industry which oversaw public health and safety and set policies intended to preserve them. No individual, group, or agency can rightly be blamed for not having sooner brought together the concepts and methodology needed for meaningful animal testing and the regulatory insignt and experience needed intelligently to apply test data to human safety evaluation and experience needed intelligently to apply test data to human safety evaluation. To accomplish this liaison seems to have required the largest toxicological catastrophe yet recorded in human history. The major events leading to formulation of the first standardized guidelines are reviewed, but it is emphasized that even today the best animal testing can only provide a limited statement of probability regarding human risk vis-à-vis safety.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Abnormalities, Drug-Induced / history
  • Androgens / pharmacology
  • Deficiency Diseases / complications
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Radiation
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical / history*
  • Estrogens / pharmacology
  • Female
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Radiation, Ionizing
  • Risk
  • Sex Differentiation / drug effects
  • Teratogens / pharmacology*
  • United States


  • Androgens
  • Estrogens
  • Teratogens