Conductive electrospun polymer improves stem cell-derived cardiomyocyte function and maturation.

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Public Summary:
Human pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes (hPSC-CMs) are vital tools for modeling cardiac diseases but are immature morphologically and functionally compared to adult tissues. Here, we use electrospinning to generate a fibrous mesh network of blended conductive polymers and show that hPSC-CMs cultured on these scaffolds show signs of increased maturity. Our analysis indicates higher expression of cardiac genes, increased organization of structural proteins essential for electrical signaling, and improved calcium handling in hPSC-CMs cultured on these scaffolds versus hPSC-CMs cultured on non-conductive substrates. This study suggests conductive polymer scaffolds are supportive of electrical coupling and enhance maturation of hPSC-CMs.
Scientific Abstract:
Despite numerous efforts to generate mature human pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes (hPSC-CMs), cells often remain immature, electrically isolated, and may not reflect adult biology. Conductive polymers are attractive candidates to facilitate electrical communication between hPSC-CMs, especially at sub-confluent cell densities or diseased cells lacking cell-cell junctions. Here we electrospun conductive polymers to create a conductive fiber mesh and assess if electrical signal propagation is improved in hPSC-CMs seeded on the mesh network. Matrix characterization indicated fiber structure remained stable over weeks in buffer, scaffold stiffness remained near in vivo cardiac stiffness, and electrical conductivity scaled with conductive polymer concentration. Cells remained adherent and viable on the scaffolds for at least 5 days. Transcriptomic profiling of hPSC-CMs cultured on conductive substrates for 3 days showed upregulation of cardiac and muscle-related genes versus non-conductive fibers. Structural proteins were more organized and calcium handling was improved on conductive substrates, even at sub-confluent cell densities; prolonged culture on conductive scaffolds improved membrane depolarization compared to non-conductive substrates. Taken together, these data suggest that blended, conductive scaffolds are stable, supportive of electrical coupling in hPSC-CMs, and promote maturation, which may improve our ability to model cardiac diseases and develop targeted therapies.