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Sci Technol Adv Mater. 2013 Aug 1;14(2). pii: 025003.

Rigid microenvironments promote cardiac differentiation of mouse and human embryonic stem cells.

Abstract

While adult heart muscle is the least regenerative of tissues, embryonic cardiomyocytes are proliferative, with embryonic stem (ES) cells providing an endless reservoir. In addition to secreted factors and cell-cell interactions, the extracellular microenvironment has been shown to play an important role in stem cell lineage specification, and understanding how scaffold elasticity influences cardiac differentiation is crucial to cardiac tissue engineering. Though previous studies have analyzed the role of the matrix elasticity on the function of differentiated cardiomyocytes, whether it affects the induction of cardiomyocytes from pluripotent stem cells is poorly understood. Here, we examined the role of matrix rigidity on the cardiac differentiation using mouse and human ES cells. Culture on polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) substrates of varied monomer-to-crosslinker ratios revealed that rigid extracellular matrices promote a higher yield of de novo cardiomyocytes from undifferentiated ES cells. Using an genetically modified ES system that allows us to purify differentiated cardiomyocytes by drug selection, we demonstrate that rigid environments induce higher cardiac troponin T expression, beating rate of foci, and expression ratio of adult α- to fetal β- myosin heavy chain in a purified cardiac population. M-mode and mechanical interferometry image analyses demonstrate that these ES-derived cardiomyocytes display functional maturity and synchronization of beating when co-cultured with neonatal cardiomyocytes harvested from a developing embryo. Together, these data identify matrix stiffness as an independent factor that instructs not only the maturation of the already differentiated cardiomyocytes but also the induction and proliferation of cardiomyocytes from undifferentiated progenitors. Manipulation of the stiffness will help direct the production of functional cardiomyocytes en masse from stem cells for regenerative medicine purposes.

KEYWORDS:

Cardiac Differentiation; Drug-selected cardiomyocyte; Matrix elasticity; Mechanical interferometry; Pluripotent Embryonic Stem Cell; Synchronization

PMID:
24311969
[PubMed]
PMCID:
PMC3845966
Free PMC Article
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