New method to safely test drugs
A breakthrough in drug testing has scientists around the world excited.
Traditionally, when a new drug is being developed, animal and human clinical trials are needed to ensure its effectiveness. Many times, however, the drug causes unanticipated complications on the heart. When this happens, it is already too late for the patient. A new method may be able to spare thousands of humans and animals when it comes to testing drugs.
Dr. Helen Maddock, a scientist at the Centre for Applied Biological and Exercise Sciences at Coventry University in the United Kingdom, has developed a “stimulated heart” that beats and reacts like a real heart, without the need for a body. The in vitro technique, which translates to ‘in glass’ meaning it takes place in a laboratory environment instead of in a living organism, uses a sample of heart tissue attached directly to a piece of equipment.
An electrical impulse is sent to stimulate the tissue, enabling the muscle to lengthen and shorten. This allows the small amount of heart tissue to mimic the biomechanical performance of cardiac muscle completely by itself.
The scientists can then add a trial drug to the imitation organ to see whether a negative reaction is produced, thus eliminating the need for human and animal clinical trials. This stimulated cardiovascular system is currently one of the most realistic and accurate models in the world.
Dr. Irina Staicu, a cardiologist on staff at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, Ill., is excited when looking at the future with such methods. “This technology has the potential to not only save lives, but also to speed up the process of creating new and better drugs, which, in turn, will also be less costly,” she says.
“We want to give our patients the best and safest treatment available,” Dr. Staicu continues. “To ensure this is accomplished, we are looking forward to seeing Dr. Maddock’s work enter the industry.”
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