Scientists are now able to create cardiac heart muscle cells from patients with heart disease. But cells alone aren’t enough to fully study cardiac disorders — especially rhythm disorders that require the activity of multiple cells assembled into tissues.
William Pu, MD, of Boston Children’s Hospital’s Heart Center and his team are honing the art ofmodeling heart disease in a dish. With an accurate lab model, they hope to test drug therapies without posing a risk to living patients (or even live animals).
Together with researchers at Harvard’s Wyss Institute, Pu’s lab recently modeled a rare rhythm disorder called catecholaminergic polymorphic ventricular tachycardia (CPVT). CPVT is a dangerous disease in which the heart’s rhythm can suddenly jolt abnormally without warning. Undetectable on a resting electrocardiogram (EKG), CPVT does not affect patients at rest. However, exercise or emotional upset trigger high levels of adrenaline, which can lead to life-threatening arrhythmia, cardiac arrest and possibly sudden death.
Building the tissue model
Isolated CPVT heart muscle cells don’t capture many of the features observed in the actual disorder, so Pu and colleagues created a living tissue model. They first took skin cells from patients with CPVT and transformed them into pluripotent stem cells. Next, they turned the stem cells into heart muscle cells. Finally, they teamed up with bioengineers from the lab of Kit Parker, PhD at the Wyss Institute to build the heart tissue.
The team induced the heart muscle cells to line up like tiny rectangles in parallel lines. The engineered heart tissues conducted electricity straight along those lines, recreating what happens in native heart tissue.
Read the full post on Vector: Tissue models of heart disease provide testing ground for treatments
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