The cardiac milieu is mechanically active with spontaneous contraction beginning from early development and persistent through maturation and homeostasis, suggesting that mechanical loading may provide a biomimetic myocardial developmental signal. In this study, we tested the role of cyclic mechanical stretch loading in the cardiomyogenesis of pluripotent murine embryonic (P19) stem cells. A Flexcell tension system was utilized to apply equiaxial stretch (12% strain, 1.25 Hz frequency) to P19 cell-derived embryoid bodies (EBs). Interestingly, while control EBs without any further stimulation did not exhibit cardiomyogenesis, stretch stimulation alone could induce P19-derived EBs to become spontaneously beating cardiomyocytes (CMs). The beating colony number, average contracting area, and beating rate, as quantified by video capturing and framed image analysis, were even increased for stretch alone case relative to those from known biochemical induction with 5-Azacytidine (5-Aza). Key CM differentiation markers, GATA4 and Troponin T, could also be detected for the stretch alone sample at comparable levels as with 5-Aza treatment. Stretch and 5-Aza co-stimulation produced in general synergistic effects in CM developments. Combined data suggest that stretch loading may serve as a potent trigger to induce functional CM development in both beating dynamics and genomic development, which is still a challenge for myocardial regenerative medicine.
Keywords: Beating colony number and area; Beating rate; Cardiomyogenesis; Mechanical stretch; Pluripotent P19 embryonal stem cells.
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