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Cell Transplant. 2010;19(11):1397-412. doi: 10.3727/096368910X513955. Epub 2010 Jun 29.

Cardiac cell generation from encapsulated embryonic stem cells in static and scalable culture systems.

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  • 1Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, State University of New York at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY 14260, USA.


Heart diseases are major causes of morbidity and mortality linked to extensive loss of cardiac cells. Embryonic stem cells (ESCs) give rise to cardiomyocyte-like cells, which may be used in heart cell replacement therapies. Most cardiogenic differentiation protocols involve the culture of ESCs as embryoid bodies (EBs). Stirred-suspension bioreactor cultures of ESC aggregates may be employed for scaling up the production of cardiomyocyte progeny but the wide range of EB sizes and the unknown effects of the hydrodynamic environment on differentiating EBs are some of the major challenges in tightly controlling the differentiation outcome. Here, we explored the cardiogenic potential of mouse ESCs (mESCs) and human ESCs (hESCs) encapsulated in poly-L-lysine (pLL)-coated alginate capsules. Liquefaction of the capsule core led to the formation of single ESC aggregates within each bead and their average size depended on the concentration of seeded ESCs. Encapsulated mESCs were directed along cardiomyogenic lineages in dishes under serum-free conditions with the addition of bone morphogenetic protein 4 (BMP4). Human ESCs in pLL-layered liquid core (LC) alginate beads were also differentiated towards heart cells in serum-containing media. Besides the robust cell proliferation, higher fractions of cells expressing cardiac markers were detected in ESCs encapsulated in LC than in solid beads. Furthermore, we demonstrated for the first time that ESCs encapsulated in pLL-layered LC alginate beads can be coaxed towards heart cells in stirred-suspension bioreactors. Encapsulated ESCs yielded higher fractions of Nkx2.5- and GATA4-positive cells in the bioreactor compared to dish cultures. Differentiated cells formed beating foci that responded to chronotropic agents in an organotypic manner. Our findings warrant further development and implementation of microencapsulation technologies in conjunction with bioreactor cultivation to enable the production of stem cell-derived cardiac cells appropriate for clinical therapies and applications.

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