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Elastomer-Grafted iPSC-Derived Micro Heart Muscles to Investigate Effects of Mechanical Loading on Physiology

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journal contribution
posted on 21.10.2020, 15:20 by Jingxuan Guo, Daniel W. Simmons, Ghiska Ramahdita, Mary K. Munsell, Kasoorelope Oguntuyo, Brennan Kandalaft, Brandon Rios, Missy Pear, David Schuftan, Huanzhu Jiang, Spencer P. Lake, Guy M. Genin, Nathaniel Huebsch
Mechanical loading plays a critical role in cardiac pathophysiology. Engineered heart tissues derived from human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) allow rigorous investigations of the molecular and pathophysiological consequences of mechanical cues. However, many engineered heart muscle models have complex fabrication processes and require large cell numbers, making it difficult to use them together with iPSC-derived cardiomyocytes to study the influence of mechanical loading on pharmacology and genotype–phenotype relationships. To address this challenge, simple and scalable iPSC-derived micro-heart-muscle arrays (μHM) have been developed. “Dog-bone-shaped” molds define the boundary conditions for tissue formation. Here, we extend the μHM model by forming these tissues on elastomeric substrates with stiffnesses spanning from 5 to 30 kPa. Tissue assembly was achieved by covalently grafting fibronectin to the substrate. Compared to μHM formed on plastic, elastomer-grafted μHM exhibited a similar gross morphology, sarcomere assembly, and tissue alignment. When these tissues were formed on substrates with different elasticity, we observed marked shifts in contractility. Increased contractility was correlated with increases in calcium flux and a slight increase in cell size. This afterload-enhanced μHM system enables mechanical control of μHM and real-time tissue traction force microscopy for cardiac physiology measurements, providing a dynamic tool for studying pathophysiology and pharmacology.