Myocardial infarction is the leading cause of death worldwide and phase I clinical trials utilizing cardiac progenitor cells (CPCs) have shown promising outcomes. Notch1 signaling plays a critical role in cardiac development and in the survival, cardiogenic lineage commitment, and differentiation of cardiac stem/progenitor cells. In this study, we functionalized self-assembling peptide (SAP) hydrogels with a peptide mimic of the Notch1 ligand Jagged1 (RJ) to evaluate the therapeutic benefit of CPC delivery in the hydrogels in a rat model of myocardial infarction. The behavior of CPCs cultured in the 3D hydrogels in vitro including gene expression, proliferation, and growth factor production was evaluated. Interestingly, we observed Notch1 activation to be dependent on hydrogel polymer density/stiffness with synergistic increase in presence of RJ. Our results show that RJ mediated Notch1 activation depending on hydrogel concentration differentially regulated cardiogenic gene expression, proliferation, and growth factor production in CPCs in vitro. In rats subjected to experimental myocardial infarction, improvement in acute retention and cardiac function was observed following cell therapy in RJ hydrogels compared to unmodified or scrambled peptide containing hydrogels. This study demonstrates the potential therapeutic benefit of functionalizing SAP hydrogels with RJ for CPC based cardiac repair.
Keywords: Gene expression; Heart; Hydrogel; Progenitor cell; Self assembling peptide.
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