Human cardiomyocytes undergo enhanced maturation in embryonic stem cell-derived organoid transplants
Abstract Human cardiomyocytes (CM) differentiated from pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) are relatively immature when generated in two-dimensional (2D) in vitro cultures, which limits their biomedical applications. Here, we devised a strategy to enhance maturation of human CM in vitro by assembly of three-dimensional (3D) cardiac organoids (CO) containing human embryonic stem cell-derived cardiac progenitor cells (hESC-CPCs), endothelial cells (ECs), and mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). In contrast to corresponding 2D cultures, 3D CO not only developed into structures containing spontaneously beating CM, but also showed enhanced maturity as indicated by increased expressions of sarcomere and ion channel genes and reduced proliferation. Heterotopic implantation of CO into the peritoneal cavity of immunodeficient mice induced neovascularization, and further stimulated upregulation of genes coding for the contractile apparatus, Ca2+ handling and ion channel proteins. In addition, CM in implanted CO were characterized by a more mature ultrastructure compared to CM implanted without CO support. Functional analysis revealed the presence of working cardiomyocytes in both in vivo and ex ovo chorioallantoic membrane implanted CO. Our results demonstrate that cultivation in 3D CO and subsequent heterotopic implantation enhance maturation of CM towards an adult-like phenotype. We reason that CO-derived CM represent an attractive source for drug discovery and other biomedical applications.