Enhanced Electrical Integration of Engineered Human Myocardium via Intramyocardial versus Epicardial Delivery in Infarcted Rat Hearts

PLoS One. 2015 Jul 10;10(7):e0131446. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0131446. eCollection 2015.


Cardiac tissue engineering is a promising approach to provide large-scale tissues for transplantation to regenerate the heart after ischemic injury, however, integration with the host myocardium will be required to achieve electromechanical benefits. To test the ability of engineered heart tissues to electrically integrate with the host, 10 million human embryonic stem cell (hESC)-derived cardiomyocytes were used to form either scaffold-free tissue patches implanted on the epicardium or micro-tissue particles (~1000 cells/particle) delivered by intramyocardial injection into the left ventricular wall of the ischemia/reperfusion injured athymic rat heart. Results were compared to intramyocardial injection of 10 million dispersed hESC-cardiomyocytes. Graft size was not significantly different between treatment groups and correlated inversely with infarct size. After implantation on the epicardial surface, hESC-cardiac tissue patches were electromechanically active, but they beat slowly and were not electrically coupled to the host at 4 weeks based on ex vivo fluorescent imaging of their graft-autonomous GCaMP3 calcium reporter. Histologically, scar tissue physically separated the patch graft and host myocardium. In contrast, following intramyocardial injection of micro-tissue particles and suspended cardiomyocytes, 100% of the grafts detected by fluorescent GCaMP3 imaging were electrically coupled to the host heart at spontaneous rate and could follow host pacing up to a maximum of 300-390 beats per minute (5-6.5 Hz). Gap junctions between intramyocardial graft and host tissue were identified histologically. The extensive coupling and rapid response rate of the human myocardial grafts after intramyocardial delivery suggest electrophysiological adaptation of hESC-derived cardiomyocytes to the rat heart's pacemaking activity. These data support the use of the rat model for studying electromechanical integration of human cardiomyocytes, and they identify lack of electrical integration as a challenge to overcome in tissue engineered patches.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Connexin 43 / metabolism
  • Electrocardiography
  • Electrophysiological Phenomena
  • Embryonic Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Gap Junctions / metabolism
  • Male
  • Myocardial Infarction / physiopathology
  • Myocardial Infarction / therapy*
  • Myocardium / cytology
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / cytology
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / metabolism
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / transplantation*
  • Pericardium / cytology
  • Rats, Nude
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Tissue Engineering / methods*
  • Transplantation, Heterologous


  • Connexin 43