Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


A new approach to growing heart muscle

U-M team reports success of rapid 3-D cell-growth technique that produces pulsing, organized tissue

It looks, contracts and responds almost like natural heart muscle – even though it was grown in the lab. And it brings scientists another step closer to the goal of creating replacement parts for damaged human hearts, or eventually growing an entirely new heart from just a spoonful of loose heart cells.

This week, University of Michigan researchers are reporting significant progress in growing bioengineered heart muscle, or BEHM, 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 an innovative technique that is faster than others that have been tried in recent years, but still yields tissue with significantly better properties. The approach uses a fibrin gel to support rat cardiac cells temporarily, before the fibrin breaks down as the cells organize into tissue.

The U-M team details its achievement in a new paper published online in the Journal of Biomedical Materials Research Part A.

And while BEHM is still years away from use as a human heart treatment, or as a testing ground for new cardiovascular drugs, the U-M researchers say their results should help accelerate progress toward those goals. U-M is applying for patent protection on the development and is actively looking for a corporate partner to help bring the technology to market.

Ravi K. Birla, Ph.D., of the Artificial Heart Laboratory in U-M's Section of Cardiac Surgery and the U-M Cardiovascular Center, led the research team.

"Many different approaches to growing heart muscle tissue from cells are being tried around the world, and we're pursuing several avenues in our laboratory," says Birla. "But from these results we can say that utilizing a fibrin hydrogel yields a product that is ready within a few days, that spontaneously organizes and begins to contract with a significant and measurable force, and that responds appropriately to external factors such as calcium."

The new paper actually compares two different ways of using fibrin gel as a basis for creating BEHM: layering on top of the gel, and embedding within it. In the end, the layering approach produced a more cohesive tissue that contracted with more force – a key finding because embedding has been seen as the more promising technique.

The ability to measure the forces generated by the BEHM as it contracts is crucial, Birla explains. It's made possible by a precise instrument called an optical force transducer that gives more precise readings than that used by other teams.

The measurement showed that the BEHM that had formed in just four days after a million cells were layered on fibrin gel could contract with an active force of more than 800 micro-Newtons. That's still only about half the force generated within the tissue of an actual beating heart, but it's much higher than the forces created by engineered heart tissue samples grown and reported by other researchers. Birla says the team expects to see greater forces created by BEHM in future experiments that will bathe the cells in an environment that's even more similar to the body's internal conditions.

In the new paper, the team reports that contraction forces increased when the BEHM tissues were bathed in a solution that included additional calcium and a drug that acts on beta-adrenergic receptors. Both are important to the signaling required to produce cohesive action by cells in tissue.

The U-M team also assessed the BEHM's structure and function at different stages in its development. First author and postdoctoral fellow Yen-Chih Huang, Ph.D., of the U-M Division of Biomedical Engineering, led the creation of the modeling system. Co-author and research associate Luda Khait examined the tissue using special stains that revealed the presence and concentration of the fibrin gel, and of collagen generated by the cells as they organized into tissue.

Over the course of several days, the fibrin broke down as intended, after fulfilling its role as a temporary support for the cells. This may be a key achievement for future use of BEHM as a treatment option, because the tissue could be grown and implanted relatively quickly.

The U-M Artificial Heart Laboratory ( is part of the U-M Section of Cardiac Surgery, and draws 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. Its focus is to evaluate different platforms for engineering cardiovascular structures in the laboratory. Active programs include tissue engineering models for cardiac muscle, tri-leaflet valves, cell-based cardiac pumps and vascular grafts. In addition, the laboratory has expertise in several different tissue engineering platforms: self-organization strategies, biodegradable hydrogels such as fibrin, and polymeric scaffolds.

Each approach may turn out to have its own applications, says Birla, and the ability to conduct side-by-side comparisons is important. Other researchers have focused on one approach or another, but the U-M team can use its lab to test multiple approaches at once.

"Fundamentally, we're interested in creating models of the different components of the heart one by one," says Birla.

"It's like building a house – you need to build the separate pieces first. And once we understand how these models can be built in the lab, then we can work toward building a bioengineered heart." He notes that while many other labs focus on growing one heart component, only U-M is working on growing all the different heart components.

Already, the U-M team has begun experiments to transplant BEHM into the hearts of rats that have suffered heart attacks, and see if the new tissue can heal the damage. This work is being conducted by Francesco Migneco, M.D., a research fellow with the Artificial Heart Laboratory. Further studies will implement "bioreactors" that will expose the BEHM tissue to more of the nutrients and other conditions that are present in the body.

Kara Gavin | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht NIH scientists describe potential antibody treatment for multidrug-resistant K. pneumoniae
14.03.2018 | NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

nachricht Researchers identify key step in viral replication
13.03.2018 | University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

Im Focus: Radar for navigation support from autonomous flying drones

At the ILA Berlin, hall 4, booth 202, Fraunhofer FHR will present two radar sensors for navigation support of drones. The sensors are valuable components in the implementation of autonomous flying drones: they function as obstacle detectors to prevent collisions. Radar sensors also operate reliably in restricted visibility, e.g. in foggy or dusty conditions. Due to their ability to measure distances with high precision, the radar sensors can also be used as altimeters when other sources of information such as barometers or GPS are not available or cannot operate optimally.

Drones play an increasingly important role in the area of logistics and services. Well-known logistic companies place great hope in these compact, aerial...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

International Virtual Reality Conference “IEEE VR 2018” comes to Reutlingen, Germany

08.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Wandering greenhouse gas

16.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

'Frequency combs' ID chemicals within the mid-infrared spectral region

16.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Biologists unravel another mystery of what makes DNA go 'loopy'

16.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>