Cardiac tissue engineering: characteristics of in unison contracting two- and three-dimensional neonatal rat ventricle cell (co)-cultures

Biomaterials. 2002 Dec;23(24):4793-801. doi: 10.1016/s0142-9612(02)00230-2.


Patients with heart failure have, in spite of improved palliative therapies, bad prognosis. Cardiac tissue engineering by use of a temporary bioscaffold and cardiomyocytes may help to find answers for future treatments in heart failure. For that purpose two neonatal rat heart ventricular cell fractions were obtained after a gradient cell separation. Time related characteristics of Fractions I and II were established in two-dimensional (2-D) and three-dimensional (3-D) cell cultures. The 3-D cardiac constructs were obtained by use of a bovine type I collagen matrix after culturing either under static conditions or in the HARV bioreactor. With the 2-D cultures contracting cells were present after 1 day, and reached confluency from day 5 on and this was maintained up to 135 days. In Fraction-I some non-contracting cells were always noticed between the (in time in unison) contracting cells. Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) revealed that these mainly concerned fibroblasts. Differences in the expression of alpha-SM-1 actin and troponin-T were observed between the two fractions. In both fractions endothelial cells and macrophages were only sporadically observed. All through the 3-D matrix pendant-like single cell and clustered cell contractions were present after 1-2 days, resulting in time in unison contracting of cells with the collagen matrices. The whole event was faster with Fraction-I and was observed up to 3 weeks. At this time point clusters of troponin-T positive cells were found scattered through the collagen matrices. Additionally, TEM revealed healthy layers of connected cardiomyocytes with intercalated discs, in this case on and in between the collagen fibres. These findings provide evidence that in unison contracting structurally organized cell-matrix cardiac constructs can be engineered by use of co-cultures (neonatal cardiomyocytes and fibroblasts) and collagen matrices, which is very promising for the repair of larger scar areas of the myocardium.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Actins / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Cell Adhesion / physiology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Coculture Techniques
  • Endothelium, Vascular / cytology
  • Heart Ventricles / metabolism*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Macrophages / cytology
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology
  • Muscle, Smooth / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Time Factors
  • Troponin T / metabolism


  • Actins
  • Troponin T