Introduction: Dilated cardiomyopathy is a major cause of progressive heart failure. Utilization of stem cell therapy offers a potential means of regenerating viable cardiac tissue. However, a major obstacle to stem cell therapy is the delivery and survival of implanted stem cells in the ischemic heart. To address this issue, we have developed a biomimetic aligned nanofibrous cardiac patch and characterized the alignment and function of human inducible pluripotent stem cell derived cardiomyocytes (hiPSC-CMs) cultured on this cardiac patch. This hiPSC-CMs seeded patch was compared with hiPSC-CMs cultured on standard flat cell culture plates.
Methods: hiPSC-CMs were cultured on; 1) a highly aligned polylactide-co-glycolide (PLGA) nanofiber scaffold (~50 microns thick) and 2) on a standard flat culture plate. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) was used to determine alignment of PLGA nanofibers and orientation of the cells on the respective surfaces. Analysis of gap junctions (Connexin-43) was performed by confocal imaging in both the groups. Calcium cycling and patch-clamp technique were performed to measure calcium transients and electrical coupling properties of cardiomyocytes.
Results: SEM demonstrated >90% alignment of the nanofibers in the patch which is similar to the extracellular matrix of decellularized rat myocardium. Confocal imaging of the cardiomyocytes demonstrated symmetrical alignment in the same direction on the aligned nanofiber patch in sharp contrast to the random appearance of cardiomyocytes cultured on a tissue culture plate. The hiPSC-CMs cultured on aligned nanofiber cardiac patches showed more efficient calcium cycling compared with cells cultured on standard flat surface culture plates. Quantification of mRNA with qRT-PCR confirmed that these cardiomyocytes expressed α-actinin, troponin-T and connexin-43 in-vitro.
Conclusions: Overall, our results demonstrated changes in morphology and function of human induced pluripotent derived cardiomyocytes cultured in an anisotropic environment created by an aligned nanofiber patch. In this environment, these cells better approximate normal cardiac tissue compared with cells cultured on flat surface and can serve as the basis for bioengineering of an implantable cardiac patch.