A microscale biomimetic platform for generation and electro-mechanical stimulation of 3D cardiac microtissues

APL Bioeng. 2018 Oct 29;2(4):046102. doi: 10.1063/1.5037968. eCollection 2018 Dec.


Organs-on-chip technology has recently emerged as a promising tool to generate advanced cardiac tissue in vitro models, by recapitulating key physiological cues of the native myocardium. Biochemical, mechanical, and electrical stimuli have been investigated and demonstrated to enhance the maturation of cardiac constructs. However, the combined application of such stimulations on 3D organized constructs within a microfluidic platform was not yet achieved. For this purpose, we developed an innovative microbioreactor designed to provide a uniform electric field and cyclic uniaxial strains to 3D cardiac microtissues, recapitulating the complex electro-mechanical environment of the heart. The platform encompasses a compartment to confine and culture cell-laden hydrogels, a pressure-actuated chamber to apply a cyclic uniaxial stretch to microtissues, and stainless-steel electrodes to accurately regulate the electric field. The platform was exploited to investigate the effect of two different electrical stimulation patterns on cardiac microtissues from neonatal rat cardiomyocytes: a controlled electric field [5 V/cm, or low voltage (LV)] and a controlled current density [74.4 mA/cm2, or high voltage (HV)]. Our results demonstrated that LV stimulation enhanced the beating properties of the microtissues. By fully exploiting the platform, we combined the LV electrical stimulation with a physiologic mechanical stretch (10% strain) to recapitulate the key cues of the native cardiac microenvironment. The proposed microbioreactor represents an innovative tool to culture improved miniaturized cardiac tissue models for basic research studies on heart physiopathology and for drug screening.