Animal models of ventricular arrhythmias

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Limitations in understanding of arrhythmias stem from lack of animal models which serve as surrogates for man. The purpose of this review is to discuss iatrogenic and naturally occurring animal models that are useful in our understanding of the mechanisms of ventricular arrhythmia and of antiarrhythmic and proarrhythmic agents. It is not surprising however that some information obtained from studies on infrahuman mammals may not be extrapolated to man. Need for anesthesia affects profoundly the electrophysiology of the heart, including autonomic affects. Most of the animal are modification of the Harris' 2-stage model. A model proposed by Schwartz, Billman and Stone has evolved as one that produces arguably the most information on the pathophysiology of arrhythmia production, including the role of the autonomic nervous system and the interaction with pharmacological agents. Intoxication with digitalis and escalating doses of epinephrine are commonly used models for production of ventricular arrhythmias. No matter what model of ventricular arrhythmias is used, programmed electrical stimulation can be useful to uncover increased tendency for arrhythmia, even if no arrhythmia occurs spontaneously. Models of spontaneous ventricular arrhythmia occur in German shepherd puppies, Boxer dogs, Doberman pinchers with dilated cardiomyopathy, and in large dogs with gastric dilatation or splenic torsion. Models are necessary because they allow for controlled studies and methods of exploration impossible, for legal and ethical reasons, in humans. Nonetheless, ethical considerations in using animal models are still important, and there is a continual search for non-animal models to explore ventricular arrhythmias.

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