A team of US scientists has invented a new way to create three-dimensional (3D) human heart tissue from stem cells that offers cheaper and faster method to create heart tissue for testing drugs and modelling disease.
The tissue also opens the door for a precision medicine approach to treating heart disease.
“We have bioengineered micro-scale heart tissues with a method that can easily be reproduced, which will enable scientists in stem cell biology and the drug industry to study heart cells in their proper context,” said Nathaniel Huebsch, postdoctoral fellow at San Francisco-based at the Gladstone Institutes.
“In turn, this will enhance our ability to discover treatments for heart disease,” Huebsch added.
Creating heart cells from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) that are derived from a patient’s skin cells is inadequate for drug testing because they do not properly predict how a drug will affect adult heart cells.
Additionally, heart cells created from iPSCs are challenging to make and work with, so creating large quantities can be difficult.
The micro-heart muscle addresses these concerns. Forcing the cells to organise and stretch into 3D tissue helps spur development and coaxes them into resembling more mature cells that can better predict how a drug will affect adult heart cells.
The new method, published in the journal Scientific Reports, requires a thousand-fold fewer cells to grow the tissue than other tissue engineering techniques.
Using fewer cells allows the scientists to do many more experiments with the same amount of resources.
“The beauty of this technique is that it is very easy and robust and still allows you to create three-dimensional miniature tissues that function like normal tissues,” said senior author Bruce Conklin, senior investigator at Gladstone.
“We think that the micro-heart muscle will provide a superior resource for conducting research and developing therapies for heart disease,” he noted.