Biomimetic perfusion and electrical stimulation applied in concert improved the assembly of engineered cardiac tissue

Robert Maidhof, Nina Tandon, Eun Jung Lee, Jianwen Luo, Yi Duan, Keith Yeager, Elisa Konofagou, Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

116 Scopus citations


Maintenance of normal myocardial function depends intimately on synchronous tissue contraction, driven by electrical activation and on adequate nutrient perfusion in support thereof. Bioreactors have been used to mimic aspects of these factors in vitro to engineer cardiac tissue but, due to design limitations, previous bioreactor systems have yet to simultaneously support nutrient perfusion, electrical stimulation and unconstrained (i.e. not isometric) tissue contraction. To the best of our knowledge, the bioreactor system described herein is the first to integrate these three key factors in concert. We present the design of our bioreactor and characterize its capability in integrated experimental and mathematical modelling studies. We then cultured cardiac cells obtained from neonatal rats in porous, channelled elastomer scaffolds with the simultaneous application of perfusion and electrical stimulation, with controls excluding either one or both of these two conditions. After 8days of culture, constructs grown with simultaneous perfusion and electrical stimulation exhibited substantially improved functional properties, as evidenced by a significant increase in contraction amplitude (0.23±0.10% vs 0.14±0.05%, 0.13±0.08% or 0.09±0.02% in control constructs grown without stimulation, without perfusion, or either stimulation or perfusion, respectively). Consistently, these constructs had significantly improved DNA contents, cell distribution throughout the scaffold thickness, cardiac protein expression, cell morphology and overall tissue organization compared to control groups. Thus, the simultaneous application of medium perfusion and electrical conditioning enabled by the use of the novel bioreactor system may accelerate the generation of fully functional, clinically sized cardiac tissue constructs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e12-e23
JournalJournal of Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine
Issue number10
StatePublished - Nov 2012
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Biomaterials
  • Biomedical Engineering


  • Bioreactor
  • Cardiac tissue engineering
  • Electrical stimulation
  • Imaging
  • Perfusion


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