Heart slice culture system reliably demonstrates clinical drug-related cardiotoxicity

Jessica M. Miller, Moustafa H. Meki, Qinghui Ou, Sharon A. George, Anna Gams, Riham R.E. Abouleisa, Xian Liang Tang, Brooke M. Ahern, Guruprasad A. Giridharan, Ayman El-Baz, Bradford G. Hill, Jonathan Satin, Daniel J. Conklin, Javid Moslehi, Roberto Bolli, Alexandre J.S. Ribeiro, Igor R. Efimov, Tamer M.A. Mohamed*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The limited availability of human heart tissue and its complex cell composition are major limiting factors for the reliable testing of drug efficacy and toxicity. Recently, we developed functional human and pig heart slice biomimetic culture systems that preserve the viability and functionality of 300 μm heart slices for up to 6 days. Here, we tested the reliability of this culture system for testing the cardiotoxicity of anti-cancer drugs. We tested three anti-cancer drugs (doxorubicin, trastuzumab, and sunitinib) with known different mechanisms of cardiotoxicity at three concentrations and assessed the effect of these drugs on heart slice viability, structure, function and gene expression. Slices incubated with any of these drugs for 48 h showed diminished in viability as well as loss of cardiomyocyte structure and function. Mechanistically, RNA sequencing of doxorubicin-treated tissues demonstrated a significant downregulation of cardiac genes and upregulation of oxidative stress responses. Trastuzumab treatment downregulated cardiac muscle contraction-related genes consistent with its clinically known effect on cardiomyocytes. Interestingly, sunitinib treatment resulted in significant downregulation of angiogenesis-related genes, in line with its mechanism of action. Similar to hiPS-derived-cardiomyocytes, heart slices recapitulated the expected toxicity of doxorubicin and trastuzumab, however, slices were superior in detecting sunitinib cardiotoxicity and mechanism in the clinically relevant concentration range of 0.1–1 μM. These results indicate that heart slice culture models have the potential to become a reliable platform for testing and elucidating mechanisms of drug cardiotoxicity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number115213
JournalToxicology and Applied Pharmacology
StatePublished - Nov 1 2020
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology


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