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Br J Pharmacol. 2015 Dec;172(23):5531-47. doi: 10.1111/bph.12996. Epub 2015 Jan 13.

The virtual heart as a platform for screening drug cardiotoxicity.

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School of Computer Science and Technology, Harbin Institute of Technology, Harbin, China.
Biological Physics Group, School of Physics and Astronomy, The University of Manchester, Manchester, UK.


To predict the safety of a drug at an early stage in its development is a major challenge as there is a lack of in vitro heart models that correlate data from preclinical toxicity screening assays with clinical results. A biophysically detailed computer model of the heart, the virtual heart, provides a powerful tool for simulating drug-ion channel interactions and cardiac functions during normal and disease conditions and, therefore, provides a powerful platform for drug cardiotoxicity screening. In this article, we first review recent progress in the development of theory on drug-ion channel interactions and mathematical modelling. Then we propose a family of biomarkers that can quantitatively characterize the actions of a drug on the electrical activity of the heart at multi-physical scales including cellular and tissue levels. We also conducted some simulations to demonstrate the application of the virtual heart to assess the pro-arrhythmic effects of cisapride and amiodarone. Using the model we investigated the mechanisms responsible for the differences between the two drugs on pro-arrhythmogenesis, even though both prolong the QT interval of ECGs. Several challenges for further development of a virtual heart as a platform for screening drug cardiotoxicity are discussed.

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