One of the dangers of prescription medication is the possibility that it can lead to an irregular heartbeat in users. When a drug is being developed, researchers will test the substance on lab rats and isolated tissue samples in order to get an idea of how a drug might affect the heart and other organs. However, these tests are not always an accurate representation of the threats a medication might pose to the organs of living humans, and human testing during clinical trials can often put a subject’s life at risk if calculations regarding safety are not precise.
Researchers from the University of Tokyo are working to develop a computerized 3D heart model that can minimize the risks associated with prescription drug development and use. The model heart, digitally created using a super computer, is composed of 22 million “cells” that “simulate the heart’s activity from the molecular level to the organ level–from the ion channels in cell membranes, for example, to the muscle contractions that pump blood.” The model was able to accurately predict the effects of 12 different existing medications on the heart, and researchers are hopeful that it can continue to do so with new and developing medications. Nevertheless, there are still some limitations, for instance, it took over three hours to simulate each heartbeat, and only 5 heartbeats could be simulated for tests. Additionally, the simulation required live tissue data in order to accurately recreate the heartbeat and effects of medication on the heart. However, researchers are hopeful that over time the system can be perfected and used to predict other heart conditions.
For more information on the University of Tokyo’s 3D heart simulation and to better understand how the model works, click on the video above.
(Source: Popular Science)