Background: Pluripotent human embryonic stem cells (hESC) are a promising source of repopulating cardiomyocytes. We hypothesized that we could improve maturation of cardiomyocytes and facilitate electrical interconnections by creating a model that more closely resembles heart tissue; that is, containing both endothelial cells (ECs) and cardiomyocytes. Methods: We induced cardiomyocyte differentiation in the coculture of an hESC line expressing the cardiac reporter NKX2.5-green fluorescent protein (GFP), and an Akt-activated EC line (E4+ECs). We quantified spontaneous beating rates, synchrony, and coordination between different cardiomyocyte clusters using confocal imaging of Fura Red-detected calcium transients and computer-assisted image analysis. Results: After 8 days in culture, 94% ± 6% of the NKX2-5GFP+ cells were beating when hESCs embryonic bodies were plated on E4+ECs compared with 34% ± 12.9% for controls consisting of hESCs cultured on BD Matrigel (BD Biosciences) without ECs at Day 11 in culture. The spatial organization of beating areas in cocultures was different. The GFP+ cardiomyocytes were close to the E4+ECs. The average beats/min of the cardiomyocytes in coculture was faster and closer to physiologic heart rates compared with controls (50 ± 14 [n = 13] vs 25 ± 9 [n = 8]; p < 0.05). The coculture with ECs led to synchronized beating relying on the endothelial network, as illustrated by the loss of synchronization upon the disruption of endothelial bridges. Conclusions: The coculturing of differentiating cardiomyocytes with Akt-activated ECs but not EC-conditioned media results in (1) improved efficiency of the cardiomyocyte differentiation protocol and (2) increased maturity leading to better intercellular coupling with improved chronotropy and synchrony.
- Cardiovascular disease
- Embryonic stem cells
- Endothelial cells
- Vascular niche
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine