Recent advances in stem cell biology and tissue engineering have laid the groundwork for building complex tissues in a dish. We propose that these technologies are ready for a new challenge: recapitulating cardiac morphogenesis in vitro. In development, the heart transforms from a simple linear tube to a four-chambered organ through a complex process called looping. Here, we re-examine heart tube looping through the lens of an engineer and argue that the linear heart tube is an advantageous starting point for tissue engineering. We summarize the structures, signaling pathways, and stresses in the looping heart, and evaluate approaches that could be used to build a linear heart tube and guide it through the process of looping.
Keywords: biomaterials; heart tube looping; mechanobiology; organogenesis; stem cells; tissue engineering.
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