Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca is working with stem cell biotechnology firm Novoheart to develop the first of its kind human heart-in-a-jar model of heart failure.

Under the collaboration, both firms will co-develop the world’s first functional human-specific in vitro model of heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF).

HFpEF is a class of heart failure whereby the ejection fraction is typical, defined as greater than 50%. It a common condition particularly among the elderly and in women, with the reported prevalence approaching 10% in women aged 80.

Under the initial phase of the project, both companies intend to develop a new in-vitro model using Novoheart’s 3-D human ventricular cardiac organoid chamber (hvCOC) technology.

The hvCOC model intends to better predict the effects of pharmaceutical compounds on the human heart early in the development process before clinical trials.

Unlike animal models, the hvCOC model leverages engineered hvCOCs made with specific cellular and matrix compositions, as well as patient-specific human induced pluripotent stem cells that enable control over their physical and mechanical properties to mimic those observed in HFpEF patient hearts.

The collaboration seeks to offer a unique solution for future assessment of novel therapeutics.

The intellectual property rights to the newly developed HFpEF hvCOC model will be owned exclusively by Novoheart.

AstraZeneca senior vice-president, head of research and early development, cardiovascular, renal and metabolism, bioPharmaceuticals R&D Regina Fritsche Danielson said: “By combining Novoheart’s proprietary hvCOC model with our expertise in heart failure, we aim to create the first in vitro model reproducing phenotypic characteristics of heart failure with preserved ejection fraction.

“This could bridge the gap between in vivo animal models and clinical trials to help accelerate the drug discovery process by providing human-specific preclinical data.”

Novoheart is claimed to be the first company in the world to have engineered miniature living human heart pumps that can revolutionise drug discovery.