In silico Cell Therapy Model Restores Failing Human Myocyte Electrophysiology and Calcium Cycling in Fibrotic Myocardium

Katherine G. Phillips, Irene C. Turnbull, Roger J. Hajjar, Kevin D. Costa, Joshua Mayourian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Myocardial delivery of human c-kit+ cardiac interstitial cells (hCICs) and human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs), an emerging approach for treating the failing heart, has been limited by an incomplete understanding of the effects on host myocardium. This computational study aims to model hCIC and hMSC effects on electrophysiology and calcium cycling of healthy and diseased human cardiomyocytes (hCM), and reveals a possible cardiotherapeutic benefit independent of putative regeneration processes. First, we developed an original hCIC mathematical model with an electrical profile comprised of distinct experimentally identified ion currents. Next, we verified the model by confirming it is representative of published experiments on hCIC whole-cell electrophysiology and on hCIC co-cultures with rodent cardiomyocytes. We then used our model to compare electrophysiological effects of hCICs to other non-excitable cells, as well as clinically relevant hCIC-hMSC combination therapies and fused hCIC-hMSC CardioChimeras. Simulation of direct coupling of hCICs to healthy or failing hCMs through gap junctions led to greater increases in calcium cycling with lesser reductions in action potential duration (APD) compared with hMSCs. Combined coupling of hCICs and hMSCs to healthy or diseased hCMs led to intermediate effects on electrophysiology and calcium cycling compared to individually coupled hCICs or hMSCs. Fused hCIC-hMSC CardioChimeras decreased healthy and diseased hCM APD and calcium transient amplitude compared to individual or combined cell treatments. Finally, to provide a theoretical basis for optimizing cell-based therapies, we randomized populations of 2,500 models incorporating variable hMSC and hCIC interventions and simulated their effects on restoring diseased cardiomyocyte electrophysiology and calcium handling. The permutation simulation predicted the ability to correct abnormal properties of heart failure hCMs in fibrotic, but not non-fibrotic, myocardium. This permutation experiment also predicted paracrine signaling to be a necessary and sufficient mechanism for this correction, counteracting the fibrotic effects while also restoring arrhythmia-related metrics such as upstroke velocity and resting membrane potential. Altogether, our in silico findings suggest anti-fibrotic effects of paracrine signaling are critical to abrogating pathological cardiomyocyte electrophysiology and calcium cycling in fibrotic heart failure, and support further investigation of delivering an optimized cellular secretome as a potential strategy for improving heart failure therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number755881
JournalFrontiers in Physiology
StatePublished - 3 Jan 2022


  • cardiac cell therapy
  • cardiomyocyte electrophysiology
  • computational modeling
  • heart failure
  • heterocellular coupling
  • human mesenchymal stem cell (hMSC)
  • myocardial fibrosis
  • paracrine signaling


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