An Example of Engineering Bioartificial Heart Tissue
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The biggest challenge in tissue engineering is still the creation of a blood vessel network sufficient to keep larger portions of tissue alive and functional. A workaround is to use decellularized donor tissues in which those blood vessels already exist: all of the cells are removed, leaving only the scaffolding of the extracellular matrix and its chemical cues, ready to be repopulated by cells derived from the recipient. As these researchers demonstrate, that donor tissue doesn't necessarily have to originate from the same organ or even the same species:

The in vitro generation of a bioartificial cardiac construct (CC) represents a promising tool for the repair of ischemic heart tissue. Several approaches to engineer cardiac tissue in vitro have been conducted. The main drawback of these studies is the insufficient size of the resulting construct for clinical applications. The focus of this study was the generation of an artificial three-dimensional (3D), contractile, and suturable myocardial patch by combining a gel-based CC with decellularized porcine small intestinal submucosa (SIS), thereby engineering an artificial tissue of 11cm in size.

The alignment and morphology of rat neonatal cardiomyocytes (rCMs) in SIS-CC complexes were investigated as well as the re-organization of primary endothelial cells which were co-isolated in the rCM preparation. The ability of a rat heart endothelial cell line (RHE-A) to re-cellularize pre-existing vessel structures within the SIS or a biological vascularized matrix (BioVaM) was determined. SIS-CC contracted spontaneously, uniformly, and rhythmically with an average rate of 200 beats/min in contrast to undirected contractions observed in CC without SIS support.

A dense network of CD31+/eNOS+ cells was detected as permeating the whole construct. Superficial supplementation of RHE-A cells to SIS-CC led to the migration of these cells through the CC, resulting in the re-population of pre-existing vessel structures within the decelluarized SIS. By infusion of RHE-A cells a re-population of the BioVaM vessel bed as well as distribution of RHE-A cells throughout the CC was achieved. Rat endothelial cells within the CC were in contact with RHE-A cells. Ingrowth and formation of a network by endothelial cells infused through the BioVaM represent a promising step toward engineering a functional perfusion system, enabling the engineering of vascularized and well-nourished 3D CC of dimensions relevant for therapeutic heart repair.

Link: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24102409

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