Adult heart muscle is the least regenerative of human tissues. But embryonic cardiomyocytes (cardiac muscle cells) can multiply, with embryonic stem cells providing an endless reservoir for new cardiac tissue. A new study by Nakano, Gimzewski and their co-workers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) suggests that the elasticity of the physical matrix used for growing cardiomyocytes outside of the body may be critical to the success of cardiac tissue engineering efforts.
Published in the journal Science and Technology of Advanced Materials Vol. 14, p. 025003 (iopscience.iop.org/1468-6996/14/2/025003), the study found that a stiff or rigid environment not only enhances the function of existing cardiomyocytes (as has previously been shown), but also promotes the generation of cardiomyocytes from embryonic stem (ES) cells. It may therefor be possible to grow new heart muscle tissue from stem cells by manipulating the stiffness of the medium they're grown in.
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