Mini heart made of polymer and cells

To better understand how human organs work, researchers have recently created so-called organoids: stem cells are grown into tiny replicas of the stomach, skin, kidneys, intestines, etc. The benefit of organoids is that they have different cells organized into a spatial structure. Of course, an organoid is far from the same as a real large organ, but it is much more similar to it than a laboratory cell culture. With an organoid, you can perform various experiments that you would not do otherwise: for example, mini-organs can be given various toxins, newly developed drugs, etc.

But there is one organ for which the organoid still cannot be made – this is the heart. All attempts to grow a miniheart end up in just a clump of contracting cells that have no spatial structure. True, almost a year ago we wrote that researchers from the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences had a cardiac organoid, but it looked like the heart of a twenty-five-day embryo.

Employees Boston University they tried to solve the problem in a different way: they constructed a miniheart from cells planted on a flexible base, which looked like a hollow cylinder with lattice walls; the walls were made of a complex laser-cut polymer. There was a hole in the chamber, to which thin tubes fit, and the hole itself was closed by a valve, like those that are in the heart. The purpose of heart valves is to ensure that blood flows in one direction so that it does not flow back into the vessel from which it came – and the artificial valve in the polymer chamber worked in exactly the same way.

In general, the design resembled a cardiac ventricle, only very small, only 3 cm in size.2. In order for it to start contracting, heart cells grown from induced human stem cells were planted on the walls of the chamber. Recall that induced stem cells are obtained from ordinary specialized skin cells, or blood, or some other: they are treated with a special molecular cocktail so that they forget their functions and turn into childhood, that is, they become stem cells that can turn into anyone. Then they are given new molecular instructions that direct their development in one direction or another – for example, in the direction of cardiomyocytes, that is, cells of the heart muscle. The cardiomyocytes in the polymer chamber began to contract, and blood—more precisely, the liquid that had been used instead of blood in experiments so far—went through the miniheart.

The polymer scaffold not only gave shape to a group of cells – it also provided them with the proper load. In order for the cardiac organoid to be as similar as possible to a real heart, the cells must work, and to the same extent as the cells in the real myocardium. By adjusting the parameters of polymer spare parts in this device, you can create working conditions for heart cells that are closest to reality. And then all experiments with them will give more or less reliable results. By the way, such a miniheart can also be used in clinical studies: for example, taking skin cells from a person, turning them into heart cells and planting them on a polymer spring wall, you can find out if everything is fine with his heart at the cellular level.

Source: Автономная некоммерческая организация "Редакция журнала «Наука и жизнь»" by

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