Beating heart muscle created from embryonic stem cells
5 February 2014
An international team led by the Icahn School of Medicine at
Mount Sinai in the US has generated engineered cardiac muscle tissue
from human embryonic stem cells. It has remarkable similarities to
native heart muscle, including the ability to beat and contract like
the human heart.
This research breakthrough study was highlighted as the cover
story of the February 2014 issue of The FASEB Journal.
The human engineered cardiac tissue, known as hECTs, was created
within a custom bioreactor device designed to exercise the tissue
and measure its contractile force throughout the culture process.
Within 7-10 days, the human cardiac cells self-assembled into a
three-dimensional tissue strip that beats spontaneously like natural
heart muscle, and can survive a month or more for long-term
experimental testing. These hECTs displayed contractile activity in
a rhythmic pattern of 70 beats per minute on average, similar to the
In addition, research results show the heart tissue model
responds to electrical stimulation and is able to incorporate new
genetic information delivered by adenovirus gene therapy. During
functional analysis, some of the responses known to occur in the
natural adult human heart were also elicited in hECTs through
electrical, mechanical, and pharmacological interventions, while
some responses of hECTs more closely mimicked the immature or
newborn human heart.
"We hope that our human engineered cardiac tissues will serve as
a platform for developing reliable models of the human heart for
routine laboratory use," said lead researcher Kevin D. Costa, PhD,
Associate Professor of Cardiology and Director of the Cardiovascular
Cell and Tissue Engineering Laboratory at the Cardiovascular
Research Center of Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
"This could help accelerate and revolutionize cardiology research
by improving the ability to efficiently discover, design, develop,
and deliver new therapies for the treatment of heart disease, and by
providing more efficient screening tools to identify and prevent
cardiac side effects, ultimately leading to safer and more effective
treatments for patients suffering from heart disease," says Dr.
"We've come a long way in our understanding of the human heart,"
said Gerald Weissmann, MD, Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal,
"but we still lack an adequate tissue model which can be used to
test promising therapies and model deadly diseases. This advance, if
it proves successful over time, will beat anything that's currently
Turnbull IC et al. Advancing functional engineered cardiac
tissues toward a preclinical model of human myocardium. February
2014 The FASEB Journal vol. 28 no. 2 644-654.