Int. J. Dev. Biol. 50: 233 - 243 (2006)
doi: 10.1387/ijdb.052041sg
© UPV/EHU Press

Biophysical regulation during cardiac development and application to tissue engineering

Sharon Gerecht-Nir1, Milica Radisic2, Hyoungshin Park1, Christopher Cannizzaro1, Jan Boublik3, Robert Langer1 and Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic*,4

1Harvard-MIT Division for Health Sciences and Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA, 2 Institute of Biomaterials and Biomechanical Engineering and Dept. Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 3 Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia and 4 Dept. Biomedical Engineering, Columbia University, New York, USA

ABSTRACT Tissue engineering combines the principles of biology, engineering and medicine to create biological substitutes of native tissues, with an overall objective to restore normal tissue function. It is thought that the factors regulating tissue development in vivo (genetic, molecular and physical) can also direct cell fate and tissue assembly in vitro. In light of this paradigm, tissue engineering can be viewed as an effort of "imitating nature". We first discuss biophysical regulation during cardiac development and the factors of interest for application in tissue engineering of the myocardium. Then we focus on the biomimetic approach to cardiac tissue engineering which involves the use of culture systems designed to recapitulate some aspects of the actual in vivo environment. To mimic cell signaling in native myocardium, subpopulations of neonatal rat heart cells were cultured at a physiologically high cell density in three-dimensional polymer scaffolds. To mimic the capillary network, highly porous elastomer scaffolds with arrays of parallel channels were perfused with culture medium. To mimic oxygen supply by hemoglobin, culture medium was supplemented with an oxygen carrier. To enhance electromechanical coupling, tissue constructs were induced to contract by applying electrical signals mimicking those in native heart. Over only eight days of cultivation, the biomimetic approach resulted in tissue constructs which contained electromechanically coupled cells expressing cardiac differentiation markers and cardiac-like ultrastructure and contracting synchronously in response to electrical stimulation. Ongoing studies are aimed at extending this approach to tissue engineering of functional cardiac grafts based on human cells.


myocardium, oxygen, interstitial flow, physical signals, bioreactor

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