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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 Sep 29;106(39):16568-73. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0908381106. Epub 2009 Sep 17.

Physiological function and transplantation of scaffold-free and vascularized human cardiac muscle tissue.

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Departments of Bioengineering and Pathology, Center for Cardiovascular Biology, and Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98109, USA.


Success of human myocardial tissue engineering for cardiac repair has been limited by adverse effects of scaffold materials, necrosis at the tissue core, and poor survival after transplantation due to ischemic injury. Here, we report the development of scaffold-free prevascularized human heart tissue that survives in vivo transplantation and integrates with the host coronary circulation. Human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) were differentiated to cardiomyocytes by using activin A and BMP-4 and then placed into suspension on a rotating orbital shaker to create human cardiac tissue patches. Optimization of patch culture medium significantly increased cardiomyocyte viability in patch centers. These patches, composed only of enriched cardiomyocytes, did not survive to form significant grafts after implantation in vivo. To test the hypothesis that ischemic injury after transplantation would be attenuated by accelerated angiogenesis, we created "second-generation," prevascularized, and entirely human patches from cardiomyocytes, endothelial cells (both human umbilical vein and hESC-derived endothelial cells), and fibroblasts. Functionally, vascularized patches actively contracted, could be electrically paced, and exhibited passive mechanics more similar to myocardium than patches comprising only cardiomyocytes. Implantation of these patches resulted in 10-fold larger cell grafts compared with patches composed only of cardiomyocytes. Moreover, the preformed human microvessels anastomosed with the rat host coronary circulation and delivered blood to the grafts. Thus, inclusion of vascular and stromal elements enhanced the in vitro performance of engineered human myocardium and markedly improved viability after transplantation. These studies demonstrate the importance of including vascular and stromal elements when designing human tissues for regenerative therapies.

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