Researchers at York University have created a vast breakthrough within the field of tissue engineering. They coaxed 3 differing kinds of cardiac cells to beat as one. The cells come together like Velcro and the beat is completely synchronised. It’s believed the findings could remove a number of limitations scientists face when manufacturing organs within the laboratory.
Until now, most 2D and 3D in vitro tissue did not beat in harmony. It required scaffolding for the cells to hold onto and grow, causing limitations. Researchers made a scaffold free beating tissue out of 3 cell types found in the heart. These 3 cell types – contractile cardiac muscle cells, connective tissue cells and vascular cells.
The researchers believe this is the primary 3D in vitro cardiac tissue with 3 cell types which will beat along as one entity instead of at different intervals. “This breakthrough will permit better and earlier drug testing. It also potentially eliminate harmful or toxic medications sooner,” said professor Muhammad Yousaf from york University.
In addition, the substance used to stick cells together (ViaGlue), will offer researchers with tools to produce and check 3D in vitro cardiac tissue in their own labs to study cardiovascular disease and problems with transplantation.
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Engineered 3D heart tissue beats in synchronized harmony
Building a heart from scratch in the lab is challenging, to say the least, but it’s well worth the effort. Of the 4,000 Americans waiting for heart transplants, only 2,500 can receive new hearts in the next year. Then, some of those people lucky enough to receive a transplant could be doomed as a result of their bodies can reject the new heart and launch a huge immune response against the foreign cells.
A heart made in the research lab, however, starts with the patient’s own cells so the resulting tissue looks, feels, and behaves as if it had always been there, inside the patient. Organs, however, have a particular architecture. To convince cells to grow into a liver or heart, for instance, scientists would typically build scaffolding on that the cells will replicate. This scaffold can work well however also comes with limitations.
Making in vitro 3D cardiac tissue has long presented a challenge to scientists as a result of of the high density of cells and muscularity of the heart,” said Dmitry Rogozhnikov from York University.
“For 2D or 3D cardiac tissue to be functional it wants the same high cellular density. Also the cells should be involved to facilitate synchronized beating,” said Rogozhnikov. Although the 3D cardiac tissue was created at a millimetre scale, larger versions could be created, said Yousaf.
The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports.