Using Zebrafish for High-Throughput Screening of Novel Cardiovascular Drugs

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Abstract

Cardiovascular diseases remain a major challenge for modern drug discovery. The diseases are chronic, complex, and the result of sophisticated interactions between genetics and environment involving multiple cell types and a host of systemic factors. The clinical events are often abrupt, and the diseases may be asymptomatic until a highly morbid event. Target selection is often based on limited information, and though highly specific agents are often identified in screening, their final efficacy is often compromised by unanticipated systemic responses, a narrow therapeutic index, or substantial toxicities. Our understanding of complexity of cardiovascular disease has grown dramatically over the past 2 decades, and the range of potential disease mechanisms now includes pathways previously thought only tangentially involved in cardiac or vascular disease. Despite these insights, the majority of active cardiovascular agents derive from a remarkably small number of classes of agents and target a very limited number of pathways. These agents have often been used initially for particular indications and then discovered serendipitously to have efficacy in other cardiac disorders or in a manner unrelated to their original mechanism of action. In this review, the rationale for in vivo screening is described, and the utility of the zebrafish for this approach and for complementary work in functional genomics is discussed. Current limitations of the model in this setting and the need for careful validation in new disease areas are also described. An overview is provided of the complex mechanisms underlying most clinical cardiovascular diseases, and insight is offered into the limits of single downstream pathways as drug targets. The zebrafish is introduced as a model organism, in particular for cardiovascular biology. Potential approaches to overcoming the hurdles to drug discovery in the face of complex biology are discussed, including in vivo screening of zebrafish genetic disease models.

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Kithcart, A., & MacRae, C. A. (2017). Using Zebrafish for High-Throughput Screening of Novel Cardiovascular Drugs. JACC: Basic to Translational Science. Elsevier Inc. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jacbts.2017.01.004

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