Growing Heart Muscle


Feedsee Heart : Growing Heart Muscle : Bioengineered cells generated pulsating forces and reacted more like real muscle than before

In 2006, University of Michigan researchers reported significant progress in growing bioengineered heart muscle with organized cells, capable of generating pulsating forces and reacting to stimulation more like real muscle than ever before. The three-dimensional tissue was grown using a technique that was faster than others tried, but still yielded tissue with significantly better properties. The approach used a fibrin gel to support rat cardiac cells temporarily, before the fibrin breaks down as the cells organize into tissue. The team detailed its achievement in a paper published online in the Journal of Biomedical Materials Research. While still years away from use as a human heart treatment, or as a testing ground for new cardiovascular drugs, the researchers said their results should help accelerate progress toward those goals. The Artificial Heart Laboratory was part of the Section of Cardiac Surgery, and drew its strength from the fact that it includes bioengineers, cell biologists and heart surgeons - a multidisciplinary group that can tackle both the technical and clinical hurdles in the field of engineering heart muscle.

Bioengineering artificial heart muscle

Bioengineering of artificial heart muscle is a highly promising and rapidly advancing field of research. This discipline lies at the intersection of biology, medicine, and engineering, seeking to generate functional, transplantable heart tissue that could revolutionize the treatment of heart disease.

  1. Cardiac Tissue Engineering: This has been one of the critical areas in the bioengineering of artificial heart muscle. This involves the use of a variety of cells, including embryonic stem cells, induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), and adult cardiac cells, to form cardiac tissue. These cells are often grown on a scaffold which provides the structural support for cells to grow, proliferate, and differentiate into cardiac muscle cells.
  2. Organ-on-a-chip technology: This technology simulates human physiology within the confines of a miniature chip, enabling researchers to study the interaction between different cell types, their responses to drugs, and the general mechanics of a miniaturized heart muscle.
  3. 3D Bioprinting: Researchers are using 3D printing technologies to create three-dimensional heart tissues that can mimic the natural heart muscle. This is achieved by layering bio-inks (a substance made of live cells and other biological materials) in a specific architecture to replicate the heart's structure.
  4. Incorporation of Electrical Conductivity: Heart tissues need to conduct electrical signals to function correctly. Research is being done to incorporate conductive materials into the heart muscle scaffold, enhancing its ability to mimic the electro-mechanical properties of the natural heart muscle.
  5. Creating Vascular Networks: One of the challenges in engineering thick, organ-like tissues is creating a network of tiny blood vessels, or capillaries, to deliver nutrients and oxygen to cells deep within the tissue. To tackle this, scientists are developing techniques such as sacrificial writing into functional tissue (SWIFT) and embedded 3D bioprinting to create dense, vascularized tissues.
  6. Biomimicry: The application of methods and systems found in nature to the study and design of engineering systems and modern technology. Using this approach, researchers try to mimic the heart's natural environment to encourage the growth and development of bioengineered heart muscle tissue.

The ultimate goal of this research is to develop artificial heart muscles that can be used to replace damaged tissue in patients with heart disease, eliminating the need for heart transplants and the associated issues with organ rejection and shortage. While the field has made considerable strides, the creation of a fully functional, full-sized, contractile heart muscle is still a future goal. But given the pace of technological advancement, that future may not be too far off.