High-throughput screening and small animal models, where are we?
Current high-throughput screening methods for drug discovery rely on the existence of targets. Moreover, most of the hits generated during screenings turn out to be invalid after further testing in animal models. To by-pass these limitations, efforts are now being made to screen chemical libraries on whole animals. One of the most commonly used animal model in biology is the murine model Mus musculus. However, its cost limit its use in large-scale therapeutic screening. In contrast, the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, and the fish Danio rerio are gaining momentum as screening tools. These organisms combine genetic amenability, low cost and culture conditions that are compatible with large-scale screens. Their main advantage is to allow high-throughput screening in a whole-animal context. Moreover, their use is not dependent on the prior identification of a target and permits the selection of compounds with an improved safety profile. This review surveys the versatility of these animal models for drug discovery and discuss the options available at this day.