3D Engineered Atrial and Ventricular Heart Tissue


CATEGORY: Medical advances

Development of 3D Engineered Atrial and Ventricular Heart Tissue for Disease Modeling, Personalized Medicine, and Drug Development


Researchers at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, the Rambam Healthcare Campus (Rambam Medical Center), and colleagues at the McEwen Stem Cell Institute at the University Health Network in Toronto, Canada have succeeded in producing 3D engineered cardiac tissues from embedded chamber-specific heart cells (atrial and ventricular cells) derived from human stem cells.


Creating a model of atrial fibrillation in the engineered atrial tissue, and mapping the electrical activity in this model in the left column, which shows a disorder resulting from “rotor formation,” and in the right column, the halting of the arrhythmia and return to normal rhythm through the use of existing and new drugs.


The tissues, which simulate heart tissues of the atrium (auricle, or the upper chamber of the heart through which blood enters the ventricles) or the ventricles, will serve in the near future for personalizing medications for cardiac patients and developing new drugs to treat them. In the more distant future, the technology is expected to be utilized in the production of implants for damaged areas in the auricles and ventricles.


To demonstrate the inherent potential of this technology, the researchers developed a model of arrhythmia in the engineered atrial tissue. The model simulates the most common type of irregular heartbeat – atrial fibrillation – and allows the examination of the effect of relevant drugs in preventing or stopping the arrhythmia after it has begun.


The atrial and ventricular tissue models displayed unique properties in terms of gene and protein expression patterns, electrical activity, and contractile properties, which were similar to their corresponding chambers in the in vivo heart.  “Separation between these two types of tissues is important because drugs that can improve the function of atrial cells and thus prevent arrhythmias in the auricle are liable to cause harm to ventricular cell function and even induce ventricular arrhythmias,” explained lead researcher Professor Lior Gepstein of the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. “For example, for atrial fibrillation – the most common type of irregular heartbeat that is also responsible for more than a quarter of all strokes – we want to influence the electrical activity of the atrial cells using drugs, without affecting the function of the ventricular tissue. Now that we can individually manufacture the cells of the atrium and the ventricle, we can test each drug for each cell type separately.”


The unique research tools developed in the present study – engineered atrial and ventricular tissue, and innovative methods to study them – could revolutionize the field of drug development as well as the ability to personally tailor drugs to the patient from which the tissue was produced (personalized medicine). In the long run, Prof. Gepstein hopes, “we will be able to use similar methods to also produce heart tissue for transplants in cardiac patients. These tissues will be well received because they are based on the genetic characteristics of the patient him/herself.”




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