The assessment of the potential hepatotoxicity of new drugs by in vitro metabolomics
Drug hepatotoxicity assessment is a relevant issue both in the course of drug development as well as in the post marketing phase. The use of human relevant in vitro models in combination with powerful analytical methods (metabolomic analysis) is a promising approach to anticipate, as well as to understand and investigate the effects and mechanisms of drug hepatotoxicity in man. The metabolic profile analysis of biological liver models treated with hepatotoxins, as compared to that of those treated with non-hepatotoxic compounds, provides useful information for identifying disturbed cellular metabolic reactions, pathways, and networks. This can later be used to anticipate, as well to assess, the potential hepatotoxicity of new compounds. However, the applicability of the metabolomic analysis to assess the hepatotoxicity of drugs is complex and requires careful and systematic work, precise controls, wise data preprocessing and appropriate biological interpretation to make meaningful interpretations and/or predictions of drug hepatotoxicity. This review provides an updated look at recent in vitro studies which used principally mass spectrometry-based metabolomics to evaluate the hepatotoxicity of drugs. It also analyzes the principal drawbacks that still limit its general applicability in safety assessment screenings. We discuss the analytical workflow, essential factors that need to be considered and suggestions to overcome these drawbacks, as well as recent advancements made in this rapidly growing field of research.