Researchers have found a way to create three dimensional (3-D) heart tissue that beats in synchronised harmony which could lead to better understanding of cardiac health and improved treatments.
"This breakthrough will allow better and earlier drug testing, and potentially eliminate harmful or toxic medications sooner," said one of the researchers Muhammad Yousaf, Professor at York University in Toronto, Canada.
Until now, most 2-D and 3-D in-vitro tissue did not beat in harmony and required scaffolding for the cells to hold onto and grow, causing limitations.
In this research, published in the journal Scientific Reports, Yousaf and his team made a scaffold free beating tissue out of three cell types found in the heart — contractile cardiac muscle cells, connective tissue cells and vascular cells.
The researchers believe this is the first 3-D in vitro cardiac tissue with three cell types that can beat together as one entity rather than at different intervals.
In addition, the substance used to stick cells together (ViaGlue) could provide researchers with tools to create and test 3D in vitro cardiac tissue in their own laboratories to study heart disease and issues with transplantation.
Cardiovascular associated diseases are the leading cause of death globally.
"Making in vitro 3-D cardiac tissue has long presented a challenge to scientists because of the high density of cells and muscularity of the heart," Dmitry Rogozhnikov, a chemistry PhD student at York University.
"For 2-D or 3-D cardiac tissue to be functional it needs the same high cellular density and the cells must be in contact to facilitate synchronised beating," Rogozhnikov explained.
Although the 3-D cardiac tissue was created at a millimetre scale, larger versions could be made, said Yousaf, who has created a start-up company OrganoLinX to commercialise the ViaGlue reagent and to provide custom 3D tissues on demand.