The ability of the adult heart to regenerate cardiomyocytes (CMs) lost after injury is limited, generating interest in developing efficient cell-based transplantation therapies. Rigid carbon nanotubes (CNTs) scaffolds have been used to improve CMs viability, proliferation, and maturation, but they require undesirable invasive surgeries for implantation. To overcome this limitation, we developed an injectable reverse thermal gel (RTG) functionalized with CNTs (RTG-CNT) that transitions from a solution at room temperature to a three-dimensional (3D) gel-based matrix shortly after reaching body temperature. Here we show experimental evidence that this 3D RTG-CNT system supports long-term CMs survival, promotes CMs alignment and proliferation, and improves CMs function when compared with traditional two-dimensional gelatin controls and 3D plain RTG system without CNTs. Therefore, our injectable RTG-CNT system could potentially be used as a minimally invasive tool for cardiac tissue engineering efforts.
Keywords: carbon nanotube; cardiac tissue engineering; hybrid-biomimetic hydrogel; injectable polymer; reverse thermal gel.