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Invivo vs. Invitro: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 18, 2023
In vivo refers to studies in living organisms; in vitro refers to studies outside living organisms, typically in test tubes.

Key Differences

In vivo and in vitro are Latin terms often used in scientific and medical contexts. In vivo translates to "within the living," and it refers to experiments or studies that are conducted within living organisms, such as humans, animals, or plants. Such studies provide insights into the biological and physiological effects of certain substances or procedures on a whole, living system.
On the other hand, in vitro, which means "within the glass," pertains to experiments or procedures performed outside of living organisms, typically in a controlled environment such as a petri dish, test tube, or culture flask. These studies allow scientists to observe biological reactions and processes in isolation without the complexities of an entire living system.
Both in vivo and in vitro methods have their advantages and drawbacks. In vivo studies are considered more holistic as they can account for the complexities of a living system, whereas in vitro studies allow for a controlled environment where specific variables can be isolated and examined without interference.
However, it's also worth noting that in vivo experiments might pose ethical concerns, especially when done on animals or humans. In contrast, in vitro tests eliminate many of these ethical concerns but might not always replicate the conditions of a living organism accurately.

Comparison Chart


Within the living
Within the glass


Inside living organisms
Outside living organisms, e.g., test tubes


Deals with whole system dynamics
Focuses on isolated components

Ethical Concerns

May pose ethical issues
Usually fewer ethical concerns


More reflective of real-world biology
Might not replicate living conditions

Invivo and Invitro Definitions


Refers to studies conducted within living organisms.
In vivo research on mice helped scientists understand the disease better.


Refers to studies conducted outside living organisms.
They tested the compound's reactivity in vitro before moving to animal trials.


Pertains to biological processes occurring in a natural setting.
The in vivo effects of the drug were different from the in vitro results.


Pertains to experiments in controlled environments, like test tubes.
The in vitro assay showed promising results against the bacteria.


Indicates experiments in whole, living organisms.
The in vivo experiment showed the vaccine was effective in preventing the disease.


Indicates tests on biological components isolated from their natural environment.
The in vitro culture of cells allowed for specific genetic modifications.


Reflects processes in their natural, complex environment.
The enzyme's in vivo activity was much more pronounced than anticipated.


Reflects isolated processes without the dynamics of a whole living system.
The drug's in vitro efficacy was promising, but in vivo trials were needed.


In the context of its natural living place.
The protein’s in vivo function is essential for cell survival.


In the context of a synthetic, controlled setting.
The protein's in vitro interactions were different than in the living cell.


(demoscene) An intro that provides details of a forthcoming demoparty to which viewers are invited.


Are there limitations to "in vivo" studies?

Yes, such as ethical concerns, high costs, and potential variability in results.

How is "in vivo" different from "ex vivo"?

"In vivo" studies are inside a living organism, while "ex vivo" studies are outside but involve living tissues taken from an organism.

Does "in vivo" always mean the study is more reliable than "in vitro"?

Not necessarily. Both types have their strengths and weaknesses.

Is "in vivo" testing always done on animals?

No, it can also be done on humans, especially in clinical trials.

Are there alternatives to "in vivo" testing?

Yes, such as in vitro, in silico, and ex vivo tests.

What does "in vitro" mean?

"In vitro" is a Latin term meaning "in glass." It refers to experiments done outside living organisms, typically in test tubes or petri dishes.

Why is it called "in vitro"?

Historically, many of these experiments were done in glass containers.

What is an "in vitro" fertilization?

It's a process where an egg is fertilized by sperm outside the body.

How does "in vitro" differ from "in vivo"?

"In vitro" studies are done outside living organisms, while "in vivo" studies are inside.

Is "in vivo" one word or two?

"in vivo."

How is "in vivo" used in drug testing?

Drugs are tested on living organisms to study their effects, safety, and metabolism.

Why is "in vitro" research important?

It allows for controlled conditions and eliminates potential whole-organism variables.

Are there limitations to "in vitro" studies?

Yes, they may not capture the complexities of living systems.

What does "in vivo" mean?

"In vivo" is a Latin term that means "within the living." It refers to experiments or processes that take place inside a living organism.

How is "in vivo" research typically conducted?

Through animal models, human clinical trials, or other living organisms.

Is "in vitro" testing safer than "in vivo"?

It can be less ethically contentious, but safety depends on the specific context and application.

Can "in vitro" results always predict "in vivo" outcomes?

No, there can be discrepancies due to the complexities of living systems.

Why is "in vivo" research important?

It provides real-life data and helps understand biological processes within a living context.

How is "in vitro" used in drug discovery?

Drugs are tested on isolated cells or proteins to study their potential effects and mechanisms.

How is "in vitro" research typically conducted?

Using cells, tissues, or molecular components outside of a living organism.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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