Stem cell biotechnology company Novoheart has partnered with biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca to develop a functional model of heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF).

Known to be a common condition among the elderly and in women, HFpEF is reported to have a prevalence approaching 10% in women over the age of 80 years.

As a global pandemic, there were an estimated 64.3 million cases of heart failure (HF) worldwide in 2017 and its prevalence is increasing.

In particular, HFpEF accounts for nearly half of HF cases and is a growing public health problem worldwide, whose pathological mechanisms and diverse etiology have been poorly understood.

With such complexities, models of the disease till date have limited ability to mimic the clinical presentation of HFpEF4. Hence, drug developers lack an effective tool for preclinical testing of drug candidates for efficacy, resulting in clinical outcomes lacking improvement over the last decades.

The collaboration between Novoheart and the Cardiovascular, Renal and Metabolism therapy area of AstraZeneca aims to establish a new in vitro model that uses Novoheart’s 3-D human ventricular cardiac organoid chamber (hvCOC) technology which reproduces key phenotypic characteristics of HFpEF, in the initial phase.

Also known as ‘human heart-in-a-jar’, the hvCOC technology is a human engineered heart tissue that enables clinically informative assessment of human cardiac pump performance including ejection fraction and developed pressure.

As opposed to the animal models, the engineered hvCOCs can be fabricated with specific cellular and matrix composition and patient specific human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) that enable control over their physical and mechanical properties to mimic those observed in HFpEF patient hearts.

Novoheart’s technology will help in developing new assays to understand HFpEF

Coupled with Novoheart’s hardware and software, the partnership aims to provide a new assay to understand the mechanisms of HFpEF, to identify new therapeutic targets and to assess new therapeutics for treating HFpEF patients. Novoheart will exclusively own the intellectual property rights to the newly developed HFpEF hvCOC model.

Novoheart chief scientific officer Kevin Costa said “We are delighted to partner with AstraZeneca, an organization which has long invested in cardiovascular research and is committed to bringing new therapeutic solutions to patients with heart failure.

“We look forward to co-developing this new HFpEF hvCOC model into a powerful new tool in the worldwide battle against heart failure.”