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J Pharmacol Toxicol Methods. 2005 Jul-Aug;52(1):46-59.

Nonclinical proarrhythmia models: predicting Torsades de Pointes.

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Department of Safety Pharmacology, Safety Assessment UK, AstraZeneca R and D, Alderley Park, Macclesfield, Cheshire SK10 4TG, UK.


Prolongation of the QT interval and the cardiac action potential have been linked to a potentially fatal but rare tachyarrhythmia known as Torsades de Pointes (TdP). Nonclinical assays, such as those investigating the effect on I(Kr) (the hERG channel current), prolongation of the action potential duration (APD) and the QT interval, in vivo, have been developed to predict the risk of QT interval prolongation and TdP in man. However, there seems to be a dissociation between the risk of QT interval prolongation and the torsadogenic risk. There is an increasing mass of evidence showing that an increase in the QT interval does not necessarily lead to TdP. Thus, it appears that while standard assays are very good, although perhaps not infallible, at predicting the risk of QT interval prolongation in man they do not predict the proarrhythmic risk. Recently there has been a plethora of publications suggesting that there are electrophysiological markers associated with drug-induced TdP other than hERG channel activity, APD and the QT interval, and these markers may be better predictors of TdP. In this review, three in vitro and, briefly, three in vivo models or methods are discussed. These proarrhythmia models use electrophysiological markers such as transmural dispersion of repolarization, action potential triangulation, instability, reverse use-dependence, and the incidence of early after-depolarizations to predict the risk of TdP. Most of the models presented have been published widely. The particular variable or set of variables used by each model to predict the torsadogenic propensity of a drug has been reported to correlate with clinical outcome. While each variable/model has been shown to discriminate between antiarrhythmic and nonarrhythmic drugs, these reports should be interpreted cautiously since none has been independently (externally) assessed. Each model is discussed along with its particular merits and shortcomings; none, as yet, having shown a predictive value that makes it clearly superior to the others. Proarrhythmia models, in particular in vitro models, challenge current perceptions of appropriate surrogates for TdP in man and question existing nonclinical strategies for assessing proarrhythmic risk. The rapid emergence of such models, compounded by the lack of a clear understanding of the key proarrhythmic mechanisms has resulted in a regulatory reluctance to embrace such models. The wider acceptance of proarrhythmia models is likely to occur when there is a clear understanding and agreement on the key proarrhythmia mechanisms. Regardless of regulatory acceptance, with further validation these models may still enhance pharmaceutical company decision-making to provide a rational basis for drug progression, particularly in areas of unmet medical need.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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