The term “Cell painting” was first coined in 2016, by Bray et al., describing a morphological profiling assay to reveal eight broadly relevant cellular components or organelles by multiplexing six fluorescent dyes in five different channels. In addition, they designed an automated image analysis software to generate a rich profile for detecting subtle phenotypes in perturbed individual cells. This approach has been demonstrated to be beneficial for clustering small molecules based on phenotypic similarities, in which cells are treated with various small molecules, dyed, and imaged to discover the chemical compounds that have comparable phenotypic effects.
Overall, Cell Painting is a powerful tool for understanding the complex biology of the cells and how they function in health and disease. The pharmaceutical industry uses it to study the effects of new drugs and identify potential targets for drug development. It can also help to assess the safety and efficacy of new drugs by studying their effects on cells and to understand how a drug is interacting with specific cellular components and how it is affecting cellular function. The method can also be used to determine potential human toxicity of drugs and to study the effects of drugs on cells.
In this field, Recursion Pharmaceuticals is the main player, which has implemented Cell Painting to support the clinical stage pipeline. Other notable players include Relay Therapeutics, Evotec and Phenovista.
Cell painting is highly valuable for understanding the biology of cells and their function in health and disease, which is essential for developing new drugs that are effective and safe.