|By Tyler MacDonald | 12 months ago|
A team of Harvard University researchers just bioengineered a three-dimensional human heart ventricle model, which could be used to test drugs, study diseases, and create patient-specific treatments for various heart conditions.
The team began by seeding a nanofiber scaffold into human heart cells. The scaffold acted as a 3-D template to guide cells into ventricle chambers that beat in vitro. Using this model, researchers can examine heart function using common clinical tools like ultrasound and pressure-volume loops.
“Our group has spent a decade plus working up to the goal of building a whole heart and this is an important step towards that goal,” said Kit Parker, senior author of the study. “The applications, from regenerative cardiovascular medicine to its use as an in vitro model for drug discovery, are wide and varied.”
“The long-term objective of this project is to replace or supplement animal models with human models and especially patient-specific human models,” said Luke MacQueen, first author of the study. “In the future, patient stem cells could be collected and used to build tissue models that replicate some of the features of their whole organ.”
“An exciting door is opened to make more physiological models of actual patient diseases,” added William Pu, co-author of the paper. “Those models share not only the patient mutations, but all of the genetic background of the patient.”
The team now hopes to use pre-differentiated, patient-derived stem cells to seed the ventricles, allowing for an increased amount of high-throughput tissue creation.
“We started by learning how to build cardiac myocytes, then cardiac tissues, then muscular pumps in the form of marine organism mimics, and now a ventricle,” Parker said. “Along the way we have elucidated some of the fundamental design laws of muscular pumps and developed ideas about how to fix the heart when these laws are broken by disease. We have a long way to go to build a four-chamber heart but our progress is accelerating.”
The findings were published in Nature Biomedical Engineering.