Pacemaker cells can be differentiated from stem cells or transdifferentiated from quiescent mature cardiac cells via genetic manipulation. Here we show that the exposure of rat quiescent ventricular cardiomyocytes to a silk-fibroin hydrogel activates the direct conversion of the quiescent cardiomyocytes to pacemaker cardiomyocytes by inducing the ectopic expression of the vascular endothelial cell-adhesion glycoprotein cadherin. The silk-fibroin-induced pacemaker cells exhibited functional and morphological features of genuine sinoatrial-node cardiomyocytes in vitro, and pacemaker cells generated via the injection of silk fibroin in the left ventricles of rats functioned as a surrogate in situ sinoatrial node. Biomaterials with suitable surface structure, mechanics and biochemistry could facilitate the scalable production of biological pacemakers for human use.
© 2021. The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited.