The cardiac work-loop technique: An in vitro model for identifying and profiling drug-induced changes in inotropy using rat papillary muscles

Sophie Fletcher, Helen Maddock, Rob S. James, Rob Wallis, Mayel Gharanei

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
29 Downloads (Pure)


The cardiac work-loop technique closely mimics the intrinsic in vivo movement and characteristics of cardiac muscle function. In this study, six known inotropes were profiled using the work-loop technique to evaluate the potential of this method to predict inotropy. Papillary muscles from male Sprague-Dawley rats were mounted onto an organ bath perfused with Krebs-Henseleit buffer. Following optimisation, work-loop contractions were performed that included an initial stabilisation period followed by vehicle control or drug administration. Six known inotropes were tested: digoxin, dobutamine, isoprenaline, flecainide, verapamil and atenolol. Muscle performance was evaluated by calculating power output during work-loop contraction. Digoxin, dobutamine and isoprenaline caused a significant increase in power output of muscles when compared to vehicle control. Flecainide, verapamil and atenolol significantly reduced power output of muscles. These changes in power output were reflected in alterations in work loop shapes. This is the first study in which changes in work-loop shape detailing for example the activation, shortening or passive re-lengthening have been linked to the mechanism of action of a compound. This study has demonstrated that the work-loop technique can provide an important novel method with which to assess detailed mechanisms of drug-induced effects on cardiac muscle contractility.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5258
Number of pages13
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 24 Mar 2020

Bibliographical note

Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit


  • Cardiac contractility
  • inotropes
  • work-loop
  • rat papillary muscles

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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