Maturation of Human Pluripotent Stem Cell-Derived Engineered Cardiac Tissues
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Cardiac tissue engineering enables the generation of functional human cardiac tissue using cells in combination with biocompatible materials. Human pluripotent stem cell (hPSC)-derived cardiomyocytes provide a cell source for cardiac tissue engineering; however, their immaturity limits their potential applications. Here we sought to study the effect of mechanical conditioning and electrical pacing on the maturation of hPSC-derived cardiac tissues. In the first part of the study, cardiomyocytes derived from human induced pluripotent stem cells (hIPSCs) were used to generate collagen-based bioengineered human cardiac tissue. Engineered tissue constructs were subject to different stress and electrical pacing conditions. This engineered human myocardium exhibits Frank-Starling curve-type force-length relationships. After 2 weeks of static stress conditioning, the engineered myocardium demonstrated at least 10-fold increase in contractility and tensile stiffness, greater cell alignment, and a 1.5-fold increase in cell size and cell volume fraction within the constructs. Stress conditioning also increased sarco-endoplasmic reticulum calcium transport ATPase 2 (SERCA2) expression. When electrical pacing was combined with static stress conditioning, the tissues showed an additional 2-fold increase in force production, tensile stiffness, and contractility, with no change in cell alignment or cell size, suggesting maturation of excitation-contraction coupling. Supporting this notion, we found expression of RYR2 and SERCA2 further increased by combined static stress and electrical stimulation. These studies demonstrate that electrical pacing and mechanical stimulation promote both the structural and functional maturation of hiPSC-derived cardiac tissues. In the second part of the study, cardiovascular progenitor (CVP) cells derived from hPSC were used as the input cell population to generate engineered tissues. The effects of a 3-D microenvironment and mechanical stress on differentiation and maturation of human cardiovascular progenitors into myocardial tissue were evaluated. Compared to 2-D culture, the unstressed 3-D environment increased cardiomyocyte numbers and decreased smooth muscle numbers. Additionally, 3-D culture suppressed smooth muscle cell maturation. Mechanical stress conditioning further improved cardiomyocyte maturation. Cyclic stress-conditioning increased expression of several cardiac markers, like beta-myosin and cTnT, and the tissue showed enhanced force production. This 3-D system has facilitated understanding of the effect of mechanical stress on the differentiation and morphogenesis of distinct cardiovascular cell populations into organized, functional human cardiovascular tissues. In conclusion, we were able to create a complex engineered human cardiac tissue with both stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes and CVP cells. We showed that how environmental stimulations like mechanical stress, electrical pacing, and 3-D culturing can affect the maturation and specification of cells within the engineered cardiac tissues. The study paves our way to further apply these engineered cardiac tissues to other in vitro and in vivo usages like drug testing, clinical translation, and disease modeling.
- Bioengineering