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Title: Physiologic biomechanics enhance reproducible contractile development in a stem cell derived cardiac muscle platform

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.

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Publisher / Repository:
Nature Publishing Group
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Nature Communications
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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  1. Abstract

    Human pluripotent stem cell‐derived cardiomyocytes (hPSC‐CMs) have emerged as an exciting new tool for cardiac research and can serve as a preclinical platform for drug development and disease modeling studies. However, these aspirations are limited by current culture methods in which hPSC‐CMs resemble fetal human cardiomyocytes in terms of structure and function. Herein we provide a novel in vitro platform that includes patterned extracellular matrix with physiological substrate stiffness and is amenable to both mechanical and electrical analysis. Micropatterned lanes promote the cellular and myofibril alignment of hPSC‐CMs while the addition of micropatterned bridges enable formation of a functional cardiac syncytium that beats synchronously over a large two‐dimensional area. We investigated the electrophysiological properties of the patterned cardiac constructs and showed they have anisotropic electrical impulse propagation, as occurs in the native myocardium, with speeds 2x faster in the primary direction of the pattern as compared to the transverse direction. Lastly, we interrogated the mechanical function of the pattern constructs and demonstrated the utility of this platform in recording the strength of cardiomyocyte contractions. This biomimetic platform with electrical and mechanical readout capabilities will enable the study of cardiac disease and the influence of pharmaceuticals and toxins on cardiomyocyte function. The platform also holds potential for high throughput evaluation of drug safety and efficacy, thus furthering our understanding of cardiovascular disease and increasing the translational use of hPSC‐CMs.

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  2. Abstract

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    Dissecting complex interactions among transcription factors (TFs), microRNAs (miRNAs) and long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) are central for understanding heart development and function. Although computational approaches and platforms have been described to infer relationships among regulatory factors and genes, current approaches do not adequately account for how highly diverse, interacting regulators that include noncoding RNAs (ncRNAs) control cardiac gene expression dynamics over time.


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    In conclusion, we find that hPSC-CMs are regulated in a cell autonomous manner during early development that diverges significantly as a function of time when compared to in vivo derived CMs. These findings demonstrate the feasibility of using CGRM to reveal dynamic and complex transcriptional and posttranscriptional regulatory interactions that underlie cell directed versus environment-dependent CM development. These results with in vitro versus in vivo derived CMs thus establish this approach for detailed analyses of heart disease and for the analysis of cell regulatory systems in other biomedical fields.

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  5. null (Ed.)
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