What is the Difference Between Ex Vivo and In Vitro?

There are five main categories into which biotechnological research can fall. The two more major ones when it comes to testing cosmetics and drugs are ex vivo and in vitro. Those with some experience in reading research are likely already familiar with the term in vivo, but ex vivo research relies on newer technologies.

This post will cover the differences between ex vivo and in vitro testing. It’ll explain the differences and similarities between the two testing methods, and also cover their applications.

What Are In Vitro and Ex Vivo Testing Methods?

Here is a quick summary of what the terms in vitro and ex vivo mean.

In Vitro

In vitro means “in the glass” in Latin. In vitro testing is done on isolated cell cultures or in a highly-controlled environment. In vitro testing provides a very clear understanding of how a material will influence individual cells, without interference from extraneous factors. In vitro can also refer to tests done on reconstructed tissue and on 2D and 3D tissue models that mimic organs.

Ex Vivo

Ex vivo means “outside the living” in Latin. It’s a more complex test done on functional organs or live cells that have been separated from the complete organism. It’s often viewed as a cross between in vitro testing and in vivo testing, which refers to research done on living organisms. In some cases, ex vivo research can eliminate the need for animal testing while in other cases, it can be done in conjunction with it.

The term ex vivo is sometimes used interchangeably with in vitro, but understanding the difference is important.

In Vitro and Ex Vivo in Cosmetics Testing

Nowadays, in vivo testing is rarely necessary when bringing a new cosmetic product to market. However, it’s still important to verify the safety and efficacy of new ingredients.

In vitro, in particular, can have a big role in the product development process. It can provide data about safety, tolerability, efficacy, and mechanism of action.

In vitro is a much more broad-ranging term. In cosmetic testing, in vitro testing can be done to identify the specific breakdown of a compound, to assess its potential for toxicity, and to identify if it contains any endocrine disruptors. Nowadays, in vitro 3D tissue models also make it possible to predict the chances of skin and eye irritation from a product.

Ex vivo models are currently being developed to provide formulators with even more means of testing efficacy and safety. However, the technology isn’t viable yet, and there are no regulatory bodies that require such a level of testing. At the moment, in vitro testing is more than sufficient in the cosmetic realm.

In Vitro vs. Ex Vivo: Differences and Similarities

These are the fundamental differences between in vitro and ex vivo testing, especially when it comes to conducting research, costs, results, and applications.

  • Both in vitro and ex vivo testing are done in laboratory environments, outside of a living organism.
  • In vitro research is done with cultured cells or tissue models that can be reproduced or modified, which allows for a lot of flexibility. Ex vivo research is done on tissue taken from an organism, so it is much more time-sensitive.
  • In vitro research is very well-developed, and has a broad range of applications, while ex vivo research is fairly new so its viability is still limited.
  • In vitro research is often done as a precursor to animal studies, while ex vivo research is often done in conjunction to it.

IONTOX In Vitro and Ex Vivo Screening

IONTOX provides both in vitro and ex vivo services to the cosmetic, pharmaceutical, and chemical industries. Our range of in vitro services is very diverse, but we have also developed an ex vivo data program that maximizes the information gathered during in vivo studies.

You can speak with one of our scientists if you’d like to learn more about our services or to understand which type of in vitro or ex vivo screening will be right for your endeavour. Get in touch with us.

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