Imagen Therapeutics’ approach is concerned only with examining the overall “functioning” of the cell under certain scenarios – in this case what they do when exposed to different drugs. This is termed a functional or phenotypic approach.
We take a sample of the patient’s cancer and expose the cells to a variety (up to 56) of different drugs for 72 hours. We then measure the cytotoxic effects using a particularly advanced cell death assay that can be conducted in 2D and 3D cell culture.
The spheroids or cells are stained with two dyes: one which stains all of the cell nuclei, and one which only stains cell that have lost cell membrane integrity. This loss of cell membrane integrity is indicative of secondary necrosis - cell death.
The images generated are then analysed using High Content Analysis and the amount of cell death is calculated for each drug at different doses. These data are summarised into heat maps with drugs tested shown in rows, and doses in columns.