Human embryonic stem cells have emerged as the prototypical source from which cardiomyocytes can be derived for use in drug discovery and cell therapy. However, such applications require that these cardiomyocytes (hESC-CMs) faithfully recapitulate the physiology of adult cells, especially in relation to their electrophysiological and contractile function. We review what is known about the electrophysiology of hESC-CMs in terms of beating rate, action potential characteristics, ionic currents, and cellular coupling as well as their contractility in terms of calcium cycling and contraction. We also discuss the heterogeneity in cellular phenotypes that arises from variability in cardiac differentiation, maturation, and culture conditions, and summarize present strategies that have been implemented to reduce this heterogeneity. Finally, we present original electrophysiological data from optical maps of hESC-CM clusters.
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