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Title: Engineering anisotropic human stem cell-derived three-dimensional cardiac tissue on-a-chip
Despite significant efforts in the study of cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), they persist as the leading cause of mortality worldwide. Considerable research into human pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes (hPSC-CMs) has highlighted their immense potential in the development of in vitro human cardiac tissues for broad mechanistic, therapeutic, and patient-specific disease modeling studies in the pursuit of CVD research. However, the relatively immature state of hPSC-CMs remains an obstacle in enhancing clinical relevance ofengineered cardiac tissue models. In this study, we describe development of a microfluidic platform for 3D modeling of cardiac tissues, derived from both rat cells and hPSC-CMs, to better recapitulate the native myocardium through co-culture with interstitial cells (specifically cardiac fibroblasts), biomimetic collagen hydrogel encapsulation, and induction of highly anisotropic tissue architecture. The presented platform is precisely engineered through incorporation of surface topography in the form of staggered microposts to enable long-term culture and maturation of cardiac cells, resulting in formation of physiologically relevant cardiac tissues with anisotropy that mimics native myocardium. After two weeks of culture, hPSC-derived cardiac tissues exhibited well-defined sarcomeric striations, highly synchronous contractions, and upregulation of several maturation genes, including HCN1, KCNQ1, CAV1.2, CAV3.1, PLN, and RYR2. These findings demonstrate the ability of the proposed more » engineered platform to mature animal- as well as human stem cell-derived cardiac tissues over an extended period of culture, providing a novel microfluidic chip with the capability for cardiac disease modeling and therapeutic testing. « less
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  1. Abstract

    The ability to differentiate human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) into cardiomyocytes (CMs) makes them an attractive source for repairing injured myocardium, disease modeling, and drug testing. Although current differentiation protocols yield hPSC-CMs to >90% efficiency, hPSC-CMs exhibit immature characteristics. With the goal of overcoming this limitation, we tested the effects of varying passive stretch on engineered heart muscle (EHM) structural and functional maturation, guided by computational modeling. Human embryonic stem cells (hESCs, H7 line) or human induced pluripotent stem cells (IMR-90 line) were differentiated to hPSC-derived cardiomyocytes (hPSC-CMs) in vitro using a small molecule based protocol. hPSC-CMs were characterized by troponin+ flow cytometry as well as electrophysiological measurements. Afterwards, 1.2 × 106 hPSC-CMs were mixed with 0.4 × 106 human fibroblasts (IMR-90 line) (3:1 ratio) and type-I collagen. The blend was cast into custom-made 12-mm long polydimethylsiloxane reservoirs to vary nominal passive stretch of EHMs to 5, 7, or 9 mm. EHM characteristics were monitored for up to 50 days, with EHMs having a passive stretch of 7 mm giving the most consistent formation. Based on our initial macroscopic observations of EHM formation, we created a computational model that predicts the stress distribution throughout EHMs, which is a functionmore »of cellular composition, cellular ratio, and geometry. Based on this predictive modeling, we show cell alignment by immunohistochemistry and coordinated calcium waves by calcium imaging. Furthermore, coordinated calcium waves and mechanical contractions were apparent throughout entire EHMs. The stiffness and active forces of hPSC-derived EHMs are comparable with rat neonatal cardiomyocyte-derived EHMs. Three-dimensional EHMs display increased expression of mature cardiomyocyte genes including sarcomeric protein troponin-T, calcium and potassium ion channels, β-adrenergic receptors, and t-tubule protein caveolin-3. Passive stretch affects the structural and functional maturation of EHMs. Based on our predictive computational modeling, we show how to optimize cell alignment and calcium dynamics within EHMs. These findings provide a basis for the rational design of EHMs, which enables future scale-up productions for clinical use in cardiovascular tissue engineering.

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  2. Cardiomyocytes derived from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC-CMs) show great potential for engineering myocardium to study cardiac disease and create regenerative therapies. However, iPSC-CMs typically possess a late embryonic stage phenotype, with cells failing to exhibit markers of mature adult tissue. This is due in part to insufficient knowledge and control of microenvironmental cues required to facilitate the organization and maturation of iPSC-CMs. Here, we employed a cell-adhesive, mechanically tunable synthetic fibrous extracellular matrix (ECM) consisting of electrospun dextran vinyl sulfone (DVS) fibers and examined how biochemical, architectural, and mechanical properties of the ECM impact iPSC-CM tissue assembly and subsequent function. Exploring a multidimensional parameter space spanning cell-adhesive ligand, seeding density, fiber alignment, and stiffness, we found that fibronectin-functionalized DVS matrices composed of highly aligned fibers with low stiffness optimally promoted the organization of functional iPSC-CM tissues. Tissues generated on these matrices demonstrated improved calcium handling and increased end-to-end localization of N-cadherin as compared to micropatterned fibronectin lines or fibronectin-coated glass. Furthermore, DVS matrices supported long-term culture (45 days) of iPSC-CMs; N-cadherin end-to-end localization and connexin43 expression both increased as a function of time in culture. In sum, these findings demonstrate the importance of recapitulating the fibrous myocardial ECM inmore »engineering structurally organized and functional iPSC-CM tissues.« less
  3. Abstract

    Human pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes (hPSC-CMs) allow investigations in a human cardiac model system, but disorganized mechanics and immaturity of hPSC-CMs on standard two-dimensional surfaces have been hurdles. Here, we developed a platform of micron-scale cardiac muscle bundles to control biomechanics in arrays of thousands of purified, independently contracting cardiac muscle strips on two-dimensional elastomer substrates with far greater throughput than single cell methods. By defining geometry and workload in this reductionist platform, we show that myofibrillar alignment and auxotonic contractions at physiologic workload drive maturation of contractile function, calcium handling, and electrophysiology. Using transcriptomics, reporter hPSC-CMs, and quantitative immunofluorescence, these cardiac muscle bundles can be used to parse orthogonal cues in early development, including contractile force, calcium load, and metabolic signals. Additionally, the resultant organized biomechanics facilitates automated extraction of contractile kinetics from brightfield microscopy imaging, increasing the accessibility, reproducibility, and throughput of pharmacologic testing and cardiomyopathy disease modeling.

  4. Abstract

    The structural and functional maturation of human induced pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes (hiPSC-CMs) is essential for pharmaceutical testing, disease modeling, and ultimately therapeutic use. Multicellular 3D-tissue platforms have improved the functional maturation of hiPSC-CMs, but probing cardiac contractile properties in a 3D environment remains challenging, especially at depth and in live tissues. Using small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) imaging, we show that hiPSC-CMs matured and examined in a 3D environment exhibit a periodic spatial arrangement of the myofilament lattice, which has not been previously detected in hiPSC-CMs. The contractile force is found to correlate with both the scattering intensity (R2 = 0.44) and lattice spacing (R2 = 0.46). The scattering intensity also correlates with lattice spacing (R2 = 0.81), suggestive of lower noise in our structural measurement than in the functional measurement. Notably, we observed decreased myofilament ordering in tissues with a myofilament mutation known to lead to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). Our results highlight the progress of human cardiac tissue engineering and enable unprecedented study of structural maturation in hiPSC-CMs.

  5. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide and bears an immense economic burden. Late-stage heart failure often requires total heart transplantation; however, due to donor shortages and lifelong immunosuppression, alternative cardiac regenerative therapies are in high demand. Human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs), including human embryonic and induced pluripotent stem cells, have emerged as a viable source of human cardiomyocytes for transplantation. Recent developments in several mammalian models of cardiac injury have provided strong evidence of the therapeutic potential of hPSC-derived cardiomyocytes (hPSC-CM), showing their ability to electromechanically integrate with host cardiac tissue and promote functional recovery. In this review, we will discuss recent developments in hPSC-CM differentiation and transplantation strategies for delivery to the heart. We will highlight the mechanisms through which hPSC-CMs contribute to heart repair, review major challenges in successful transplantation of hPSC-CMs, and present solutions that are being explored to address these limitations. We end with a discussion of the clinical use of hPSC-CMs, including hurdles to clinical translation, current clinical trials, and future perspectives on hPSC-CM transplantation.