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UC Davis researchers develop computer model for testing heart-disease drugs
Date:8/31/2011

(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) UC Davis researchers have developed an accurate computer model to test the effects of medications for arrhythmia, or abnormal heart rhythm, before they are used in patients.

The new tool -- described in the Aug. 31 issue of the journal Science Translational Medicine -- will help scientists screen anti-arrhythmia medications early in the drug-development pipeline and eventually guide physicians in prescribing those interventions to patients who could benefit the most.

"Drug development for arrhythmia has failed because it is difficult to anticipate how drugs will alter the heart's intricate electrical behavior prior to clinical trials," said Clancy, an associate professor of pharmacology at UC Davis and senior author of the study. "We developed a novel approach to solve this problem -- a computational framework for making early predictions about the effects of medications on cardiac rhythms."

In the 1980s, the Cardiac Arrhythmia Suppression Trial (CAST) study came to an abrupt halt when scientists discovered that the arrhythmia medication flecainide, used to treat abnormally fast heart rhythms, more than tripled the risk of sudden cardiac death compared to placebo in patients with irregular heartbeats.

"No one ever knew exactly why this happened, and we used our model to find out," said Clancy. "CAST gave us the clinical starting point for our study."

To further prove the model's utility, Clancy and her team also used it to test lidocaine, an anti-arrhythmia medication with a strong safety profile and sufficient clinical outcomes data.

In conducting the study, Clancy, a biophysicist who specializes in using high-performance computing to understand diseases arising from abnormal excitability, started with existing models that simulate the behavior of heart cells during both normal heart rhythms and arrhythmia. She then devised mathematical formulas to describe the interaction
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Contact: Karen Finney
karen.finney@ucdmc.ucdavis.edu
916-734-9064
University of California - Davis Health System
Source:Eurekalert

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