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Circulation. 2005 Jan 4;111(1):11-20. Epub 2004 Dec 20.

Functional integration of electrically active cardiac derivatives from genetically engineered human embryonic stem cells with quiescent recipient ventricular cardiomyocytes: insights into the development of cell-based pacemakers.

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Department of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Md 21205, USA.



Human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) derived from blastocysts can propagate indefinitely in culture while maintaining pluripotency, including the ability to differentiate into cardiomyocytes (CMs); therefore, hESCs may provide an unlimited source of human CMs for cell-based therapies. Although CMs can be derived from hESCs ex vivo, it remains uncertain whether a functional syncytium can be formed between donor and recipient cells after engraftment.


Using a combination of electrophysiological and imaging techniques, here we demonstrate that electrically active, donor CMs derived from hESCs that had been stably genetically engineered by a recombinant lentivirus can functionally integrate with otherwise-quiescent, recipient, ventricular CMs to induce rhythmic electrical and contractile activities in vitro. The integrated syncytium was responsive to the beta-adrenergic agonist isoproterenol as well as to other pharmacological agents such as lidocaine and ZD7288. Similarly, a functional hESC-derived pacemaker could be implanted in the left ventricle in vivo. Detailed optical mapping of the epicardial surface of guinea pig hearts transplanted with hESC-derived CMs confirmed the successful spread of membrane depolarization from the site of injection to the surrounding myocardium.


We conclude that electrically active, hESC-derived CMs are capable of actively pacing quiescent, recipient, ventricular CMs in vitro and ventricular myocardium in vivo. Our results may lead to an alternative or a supplemental method for correcting defects in cardiac impulse generation, such as cell-based pacemakers.

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