Guided vascularization in the rat heart leads to transient vessel patterning

APL Bioeng. 2020 Mar 5;4(1):016105. doi: 10.1063/1.5122804. eCollection 2020 Mar.


Recent progress in the production and maturation of iPSC-cardiomyocytes has facilitated major advances in building bioartificial heart tissue with functional cardiomyocytes. Despite this progress, vascularizing these constructs continues to be a barrier to clinical application. One emerging strategy for vascularization uses aligned "cords" of endothelial cells in tissue grafts to guide assembly of chimeric microvessels upon graft implantation. Here, we test whether this approach can guide vascularization of a bioartificial tissue implanted on the rat heart. We find that patterned cords of human endothelial cells anastomose and become perfused with host blood by 3 days post-implantation. Immunohistochemical staining confirmed that graft-derived micro-vessels persist in the patch for 7 days. Furthermore, we noted a shift in distribution of vessels in the patch from patterned cord-associated clustering at 3 days to a more diffuse distribution pattern at 7 days. This loss of patterning corresponded to an infiltration of CD68+ cells and an increase in collagen within the patch. Upon further engraftment of patches containing both cords and human cardiomyocytes, we identified human cardiomyocytes and graft derived vasculature at the time of explant. Our findings show that patterned endothelial cords guide transient vessel patterning on the rat heart. Our results also suggest that future work should be directed at further adapting vascularization strategies to the epicardial environment and add to an important emerging dialog in cardiac cell therapy that points to the need to characterize host response prior to or in parallel with efficacy studies.