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ACS Nano. 2013 Mar 26;7(3):2369-80. doi: 10.1021/nn305559j. Epub 2013 Feb 22.

Carbon-nanotube-embedded hydrogel sheets for engineering cardiac constructs and bioactuators.

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Center for Biomedical Engineering, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, 65 Landsdowne Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, United States.


We engineered functional cardiac patches by seeding neonatal rat cardiomyocytes onto carbon nanotube (CNT)-incorporated photo-cross-linkable gelatin methacrylate (GelMA) hydrogels. The resulting cardiac constructs showed excellent mechanical integrity and advanced electrophysiological functions. Specifically, myocardial tissues cultured on 50 μm thick CNT-GelMA showed 3 times higher spontaneous synchronous beating rates and 85% lower excitation threshold, compared to those cultured on pristine GelMA hydrogels. Our results indicate that the electrically conductive and nanofibrous networks formed by CNTs within a porous gelatin framework are the key characteristics of CNT-GelMA leading to improved cardiac cell adhesion, organization, and cell-cell coupling. Centimeter-scale patches were released from glass substrates to form 3D biohybrid actuators, which showed controllable linear cyclic contraction/extension, pumping, and swimming actuations. In addition, we demonstrate for the first time that cardiac tissues cultured on CNT-GelMA resist damage by a model cardiac inhibitor as well as a cytotoxic compound. Therefore, incorporation of CNTs into gelatin, and potentially other biomaterials, could be useful in creating multifunctional cardiac scaffolds for both therapeutic purposes and in vitro studies. These hybrid materials could also be used for neuron and other muscle cells to create tissue constructs with improved organization, electroactivity, and mechanical integrity.

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