Cell Painting: The Colorful Future of Drug Discovery

This panel Q&A, originally posted on Scientist.com, was written in collaboration with PhenoVista and highlights their unique service offering.

Cell painting is an unbiased, phenotypic drug discovery approach that employs predictive model systems to evaluate therapeutic candidates. The term “painting” refers to the application of fluorescent probes that are specific to various cell components or compartments. For each compartment, high-content imaging allows for the quantitative assessment of multiple features such as signal area, intensity, puncta count, and shape.

Cell painting

This technique can be used to assess how cells behave in response to treatment with a variety of test articles such as small molecules, biologics, or genetic manipulations. Cellular response profiles of test articles are compared to reference treatments with known mechanisms so that their mechanisms of action can be hypothesized, and their on-target biology and potential off-target toxicities can be understood. Since this unbiased cellular response profiling can provide novel mechanistic insights, cell painting is particularly valuable in preclinical and early drug discovery programs.

Key topics discussed in this article include:

  • What types of dyes are used and what data they provide
  • What reference compounds and libraries are used for comparison
  • What types of analyses are available and how the data are presented
  • What cell types are used for screening
  • How PhenoVista’s capabilities differ from other offerings