New Silicon 'Heart-on-a-Chip' Lets Scientists Assess Cardiac Drug Reactions

The platform allows the testing of conditions that cannot be easily replicated in animals.

A new platform has been released that allows researchers to test the effects of drugs on heart cells without the need for test animals.

The silicon chip, which holds human lab-grown heart muscles patterned on electrodes, will allow researchers to evaluate the safety of new therapies in preclinical development.

RELATED: SCIENTISTS DISCOVER NEW CELL THAT CAN HEAL HEARTS

Assessing drug effectiveness

A new paper in this week's APL Bioengineering details the new silicon chip that can hold human lab-grown heart muscle cells.

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A press release, published in MedicalXpress, reveals how the chip includes heart cells, called cardiomyocytes, which have been patterned on the chip with electrodes. These electrodes can simulate as well as measure electrical activity within the cells.

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The platform will allow for the testing of conditions that are not easily replicable in a model animal.

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For example, ischemia, a dangerous state in which a heart's conduction velocity, beat frequency, and electrical intervals change, often causes problems. The heart of a rat has a metabolism six times higher than that of a human heart, meaning they can fall into ischemia much more easily than humans.

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New Silicon 'Heart-on-a-Chip' Lets Scientists Assess Cardiac Drug Reactions
Source: Carlota Oleaga

A statement from TARA Biosystems describes how "traditional in vitro systems and animal models do not fully capture the physiology of the human heart."

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The company said, their platform was shown to "replicate for the first time the human-like response to the drugs that other laboratory models failed to capture."

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What's more, "the researchers also confirmed the findings at the molecular level, showing that the drugs were acting along the same molecular pathways seen in human heart tissue."

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Other uses

As the team's paper details, they successfully used the platform to assess the viability of the drug ZP1609 in treating ischemia in the heart. Now, they mean to test it further with other organs.

As per MedicalXpress, the team of researchers wants to see how cells in the heart signal to cells in the brain and the liver, while under the effects of ischemia.

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