Identification of two preclinical canine models of atrial fibrillation to facilitate drug discovery

Published:December 23, 2020DOI:


      Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common arrhythmia occurring in humans, and new treatment strategies are critically needed. The lack of reliable preclinical animal models of AF is a major limitation to drug development of novel antiarrhythmic compounds.


      The purpose of this study was to provide a comprehensive head-to-head assessment of 5 canine AF models.


      Five canine models were evaluated for the efficacy of AF induction and AF duration. We tested 2 acute models: short-term atrial tachypacing (AT) for 6 hours with analysis of AF at hourly increments, and carbachol injection into a cardiac fat pad followed by short-term AT. We also tested 3 chronic models: pacemaker implantation followed by either 4 weeks of AT and subsequent atrial burst pacing or intermittent long-term AT for up to 4–5 months to generate AF ≥4.5 hours, and finally ventricular tachypacing to induce heart failure followed by atrial burst pacing to induce AF.


      Careful evaluation showed that acute AT, AT for 4 weeks, and the heart failure model all were unsuccessful in generating reproducible AF episodes of sufficient duration to study antiarrhythmic drugs. In contrast, intermittent long-term AT generated AF lasting ≥4.5 hours in ∼30% of animals. The acute model using carbachol and short-term AT resulted in AF induction of ≥15 minutes in ≥75% of animals, thus enabling testing of antiarrhythmic drugs.


      Intermittent long-term AT and the combination of local carbachol injection with successive short-term AT may contribute to future drug development efforts for AF treatment.

      Graphical abstract

      Figure thumbnail fx1
      Graphical Abstract
      Images from the following websites (Servier Medical Art,, and https: were used to create this figure.


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