Human embryonic stem cell-derived cardiovascular progenitor cells efficiently colonize in bFGF-tethered natural matrix to construct contracting humanized rat hearts
Abstract Bioengineering of whole hearts using human embryonic stem cells (hESCs)-derived cardiovascular progenitor cells (CPCs) and natural matrices is a promising approach to overcome organ donor shortage threatening millions of patients awaiting for heart transplantation. Here, we developed a novel strategy for generation of heart constructs by repopulating engineered decellularized rat hearts using hESCs-derived CPCs. Careful expansion of CPCs in a scalable stirred-suspension bioreactor combined with step-wise seeding (60 million cells in 3 steps of 20 million per 1.5 h) onto decellularized hearts containing immobilized basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) resulted in improved retention of CPCs and differentiation to cardiomyocytes, smooth muscle cells and endothelial cells as evaluated by immunohistochemistry and qRT-PCR. We observed spontaneous and synchronous contractions of humanized hearts after 12 days of perfusion as well as advanced alignment of myofilaments. Our study provides a robust platform for generation of artificial human hearts and resolves major bottlenecks hindering further development of this technology.