Designing a Bioreactor to Improve Data Acquisition and Model the Throughput of Engineered Cardiac Tissues

Camille C. van Neste, Karlo A. Wiley, Serena W. Chang, Joseph Borrello, Irene C. Turnbull, Kevin D. Costa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Heart failure remains the leading cause of death worldwide, creating a pressing need for better preclinical models of the human heart. Tissue engineering is crucial for basic science cardiac research; in vitro human cell culture eliminates the interspecies differences of animal models, while a more tissue-like 3D environment (e.g., with extracellular matrix and heterocellular coupling) simulates in vivo conditions to a greater extent than traditional two-dimensional culture on plastic Petri dishes. However, each model system requires specialized equipment, for example, custom-designed bioreactors and functional assessment devices. Additionally, these protocols are often complicated, labor-intensive, and plagued by the failure of the small, delicate tissues. This paper describes a process for generating a robust human engineered cardiac tissue (hECT) model system using induced pluripotent stem-cell-derived cardiomyocytes for the longitudinal measurement of tissue function. Six hECTs with linear strip geometry are cultured in parallel, with each hECT suspended from a pair of force-sensing polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) posts attached to PDMS racks. Each post is capped with a black PDMS stable post tracker (SPoT), a new feature that improves the ease of use, throughput, tissue retention, and data quality. The shape allows for the reliable optical tracking of post deflections, yielding improved twitch force tracings with absolute active and passive tension. The cap geometry eliminates tissue failure due to hECTs slipping off the posts, and as they involve a second step after PDMS rack fabrication, the SPoTs can be added to existing PDMS post-based designs without major changes to the bioreactor fabrication process. The system is used to demonstrate the importance of measuring hECT function at physiological temperatures and shows stable tissue function during data acquisition. In summary, we describe a state-of-the-art model system that reproduces key physiological conditions to advance the biofidelity, efficiency, and rigor of engineered cardiac tissues for in vitro applications.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere64368
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Issue number196
StatePublished - Jun 2023


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