Drug Testing Made Easy With 3D Artificial Heart

By mimicking the electrophysiology of the heart with 20 million cardiac cells, researchers hope to develop more realistic drug screening tools.

AsianScientist (May 13, 2015) – Researchers have used a three-dimensional (3D), computerized heart model to test the ability of certain drugs to lead to a rare but fatal heart condition—cardiac arrhythmia. The results of their study have been published in the journal Science Advances.

Cardiac arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat, is a rare but potentially fatal condition. A serious side effect of several commonly used drugs, cardiac arrhythmia is often precipitated by factors such as liver dysfunction, being female or pre-existing heart conditions.

While standard cardiotoxity tests are usually successful in preventing unexpected drug-related deaths caused by heart problems, they pose a challenge for drug-development. This is because these tests are based on laboratory measurements of cell cultures rather than whole organs, limiting the extension of the results to human subjects.

Instead, Dr. Jun-ichi Okada and colleagues from the University of Tokyo combined the traditional ‘patch-clamp’ in vitro pharmacological assays with a 3D artificial heart to evaluate the effect of 12 drugs on the ion channels of the heart.

The heart model, ‘UT-Heart’, consists of 20 million heart cells that accurately represent the electrophysiology (the flow of ions in biological tissues) of the human heart. It can reproduce all fundamental activities of the working heart, including contraction, relaxation, blood pressure and flow.

Using UT-Heart, the researchers identified eight out of 12 drugs that were prone to cause heart arrhythmias at specific dosage concentrations. The heart model was also used to show that some of these drugs caused heart arrhythmia when combined with common antibiotics.

In the future, the researchers hope that their 3D computerized heart model will enable faster and cheaper drug candidate testing.

The article can be found at: Okada et al. (2015) Screening System For Drug-induced Arrhythmogenic Risk Combining A Patch Clamp And Heart Simulator.


Copyright: Asian Scientist Magazine; Photo: C. Bickel/Science Advances.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

Leonard graduated from Monash University with a degree in communications. He enjoys reading about science and nature.

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