‘In vitro’ (e.g. test tube) studies

‘In vitro’ (meaning ‘in glass’) studies are where scientists investigate chemicals, microorganisms (e.g. bacteria) or tissue (e.g. skin cells in isolation) in test tubes or petri dishes in a lab.

For example, a researcher might want to examine the effect that a potential new medicine has on cancer cells. Putting some cancer cells together with some of the potential medicine in a test tube is a straightforward way of seeing what effect the potential medicine has on the cells.

Experiments done in a lab like this are an important way for scientists to learn how chemicals, cells and microorganisms behave and interact. But it is very difficult to accurately recreate ‘real world’ conditions in a test tube, for example, how a medicine would be broken down in the body.

Many claims about exciting new cures, or conversely chemicals that are dangerous or toxic, are solely based on the conclusions of in vitro studies.

Tags: evidence

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