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A 3D model of a human heart ventricle can survive for months

31 July 2018

Bioengineers at Harvard University have built a three-dimensional scale model of a heart ventricle that beats and can survive for months in the lab.

This three-dimensional model of a left heart ventricle was engineered with a nanofiber scaffold seeded with heart cells. (Credit: Luke MacQueen and Michael Rosnach/Harvard University)

The researchers bioengineered the three-dimensional model of a human left heart ventricle so it could be used to study diseases, test drugs and develop patient-specific treatments for heart conditions such as arrhythmia. 

The tissue is engineered with a nanofibre scaffold seeded with human heart cells. The scaffold acts like a 3D template, guiding the cells and their assembly into ventricle chambers that beat in vitro. This allows researchers to study heart function using many of the same tools used in the clinic, including pressure-volume loops and ultrasound.

“Our group has spent a decade plus working up to the goal of building a whole heart and this is an important step towards that goal,” said Kit Parker, the Tarr Family Professor of Bioengineering and Applied Physics at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and senior author of the study. “The applications, from regenerative cardiovascular medicine to its use as an in vitro model for drug discovery, are wide and varied.”

It could be used to study diseases, test drugs and develop patient-specific treatments for heart conditions such as arrhythmia. (Credit: Luke MacQueen and Michael Rosnach/Harvard University)

“The long-term objective of this project is to replace or supplement animal models with human models and especially patient-specific human models,” said Luke MacQueen, first author of the study and postdoctoral fellow at SEAS and Wyss. “In the future, patient stem cells could be collected and used to build tissue models that replicate some of the features of their whole organ.”

“An exciting door is opened to make more physiological models of actual patient diseases,” said William Pu, Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and a Principal Faculty member of HSCI and co-author of the paper. “Those models share not only the patient mutations, but all of the genetic background of the patient.”

See the 3D ventricle beating here.


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