Biomechanical regulation of in vitro cardiogenesis for tissue-engineered heart repair

Stem Cell Res Ther. 2013;4(6):137. doi: 10.1186/scrt348.


The heart is a continuously pumping organ with an average lifespan of eight decades. It develops from the onset of embryonic cardiogenesis under biomechanical load, performs optimally within a defined range of hemodynamic load, and fails if acutely or chronically overloaded. Unloading of the heart leads to defective cardiogenesis in utero, but can also lead to a desired therapeutic outcome (for example, in patients with heart failure under left ventricular assist device therapy). In light of the well-documented relevance of mechanical loading for cardiac physiology and pathology, it is plausible that tissue engineers have integrated mechanical stimulation regimens into protocols for heart muscle construction. To achieve optimal results, physiological principles of beat-to-beat myocardial loading and unloading should be simulated. In addition, heart muscle engineering, in particular if based on pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes, may benefit from staggered tonic loading protocols to simulate viscoelastic properties of the prenatal and postnatal myocardial stroma. This review will provide an overview of heart muscle mechanics, summarize observations on the role of mechanical loading for heart development and postnatal performance, and discuss how physiological loading regimens can be exploited to advance myocardial tissue engineering towards a therapeutic application.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Heart / physiology
  • Humans
  • Myocardium / metabolism
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / cytology
  • Pluripotent Stem Cells / cytology
  • Regeneration
  • Tissue Engineering*