Scalable Cardiac Differentiation of Pluripotent Stem Cells Using Specific Growth Factors and Small Molecules

Adv Biochem Eng Biotechnol. 2018;163:39-69. doi: 10.1007/10_2017_30.


The envisioned routine application of human pluripotent stem cell (hPSC)-derived cardiomyocytes (CMs) for therapies and industry-compliant screening approaches will require efficient and highly reproducible processes for the mass production of well-characterized CM batches.On their way toward beating CMs, hPSCs initially undergo an epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition into a primitive-streak (PS)-like population that later gives rise to all endodermal and mesodermal lineages, including cardiovascular progenies (CVPs). CVPs are multipotent and possess the capability to give rise to all major cell types of the heart, including CMs, endothelial cells, cardiac fibroblasts, and smooth muscle cells. This article provides an historical overview and describes the stepwise development of protocols that typically result in the appearance of beating CMs within 7-12 days of hPSC differentiation.We describe the development of directed and closely controlled cardiomyogenic differentiation, which now enables the induction of >90% CM purity without further lineage enrichment. Although secreted lineage specifiers (revealed from developmental biology) were initially used, we outline the advantages of chemical pathway modulators, as defined by more recent screening approaches. Subsequently, we discuss the use of defined culture media for upscaling the production of hPSC-CMs in controlled bioreactors and how this, in principle, unlimited source of human CMs can be used to progress heart regeneration and stimulate the drug discovery pipeline. Graphical Abstract.

Keywords: Bioreactor; Cardiac differentiation; Cardiomyocyte; Induced pluripotent stem cells; Mass production; Primitive streak; Upscaling; hPSC; hPSC-CM.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects*
  • Heart / physiology
  • Humans
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells / cytology
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / pharmacology*
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / cytology
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / metabolism*
  • Regeneration / drug effects


  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins