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New technique uses 'simulated' human heart to screen drugs
Date:7/21/2014

A Coventry University scientist has developed a pioneering new way using samples of beating heart tissue to test the effect of drugs on the heart without using human or animal trials.

The breakthrough is the work of Dr Helen Maddock an expert in cardiovascular physiology and pharmacology from the University's Centre for Applied Biological and Exercise Sciences and could lead to the lives of hundreds of future patients being saved and the quality of their treatments improved.

Adverse effects of drugs on the cardiovascular system are a major cause of many medical treatments failing, but heart-related side-effects can often only be detected once a drug is being used on patients in clinical trials by which time it is too late.

Dr Maddock's 'in vitro' technique which means 'in glass' in reference to it taking place in a laboratory environment rather than in a living organism uses a specimen of human heart tissue attached to a rig allowing the muscle to be lengthened and shortened whilst being stimulated by an electrical impulse, mimicking the biomechanical performance of cardiac muscle.

Trial drugs can then be added to the tissue to determine whether or not they have an adverse effect on the force of contraction of the muscle (and therefore of the heart), a test that could only previously be performed 'in vivo' i.e. on living animals often with inconclusive results.

This 'simulated' cardiovascular system known as a work-loop assay provides the most realistic model of heart muscle dynamics in the world to date, and opens up unprecedented possibilities for identifying negative effects of drugs early and inexpensively potentially saving lives and speeding up the development of successful drug treatments.

Dr Maddock has formed a spin-out company InoCardia Ltd from Coventry University to begin implementing her groundbreaking technique in the pharma industry, and it has already received a quarter o
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Contact: Alex Roache
alex.roache@coventry.ac.uk
44-024-776-55050
Coventry University
Source:Eurekalert  

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