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Heart tissue aids drug trial

By John Von Radowitz

A new way of screening drugs using samples of beating heart tissue has been pioneered by UK scientists.

The technique could lead to safer treatments while avoiding risky human trials or distressing animal experiments, it is claimed.

Unwanted side-effects affecting the heart are a major cause of many new drugs failing. But often they can only be detected once a drug is being tested on patients in clinical trials.

The new "work-loop assay" screening system pioneered at the University of Coventry uses a specimen of heart muscle stimulated by pulses of electricity to make it expand and contract.

Experimental drugs are added to the tissue to see what effect they have on the muscle contraction, which mirrors the beating of a patient's heart. Heart muscle used in the research was supplied by a tissue bank in Coventry.

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