Author(s): Eschenhagen T, Didi M, Heubach J, Ravens U, Zimmermann WH
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Abstract Recent progress in implantations of differentiated cardiac and non-cardiac cells as well as adult stem cells into the heart suggests that the irreversible loss of viable cardiac myocytes that occurs during myocardial infarction can be at least partly substituted. We evaluated an alternative approach by reconstituting cardiac tissue grafts in vitro and implanting them as spontaneously and coherently contracting tissues. For this purpose we have optimized a method to generate ring-shaped three-dimensional engineered heart tissue (EHT) in vitro from neonatal rat cardiac myocytes. When subjected to isometric force measurements in organ baths, electrically stimulated EHTs exhibit a Frank-Starling behavior, a positive inotropic response to increases in extracellular calcium, a positive inotropic and lusitropic response to isoprenaline, and a negative inotropic response to the muscarinic agonist carbachol ('accentuated antagonism'). Twitch tension under maximal calcium amounts to 1-2 mN/ mm2. Importantly, passive (resting) tension is low, yielding a ratio of active/passive tension of approximately 1.5 under basal and 14 under maximal calcium. Morphologically, EHTs represent a highly interconnected three-dimensional network of cardiac myocytes resembling loose cardiac tissue with a high fraction of binucleated cardiac myocytes, strong eosin staining and elongated centrally located nuclei. Electron microscopy demonstrated well developed sarcomeric structures, T-tubules, SR vesicles, T-tubule-SR-junctions, all types of intercellular connective structures, and a basement membrane. Thus, EHTs comprise functional and morphological properties of intact, ventricular myocardium. First implantation experiments of EHTs in the peritoneum of Fischer 344 rats showed that EHTs survived for at least 14 days, maintained a network of differentiated cardiac myocytes, and were strongly vascularized. Thus, EHTs may serve as material for a novel tissue replacement approach.
This article was published in Transpl Immunol
and referenced in Journal of Cell Science & Therapy