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Functional 3-D cardiac co-culture model using bioactive chitosan nanofiber scaffolds

Authors

  • Ali Hussain,

    1. Department of Biomedical Engineering, New Jersey Institute of Technology, University Heights Newark, New Jersey 07102; telephone: 973-596-5381; fax: 973-596-5222
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  • George Collins,

    1. Department of Biomedical Engineering, New Jersey Institute of Technology, University Heights Newark, New Jersey 07102; telephone: 973-596-5381; fax: 973-596-5222
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  • Derek Yip,

    1. Department of Biomedical Engineering, New Jersey Institute of Technology, University Heights Newark, New Jersey 07102; telephone: 973-596-5381; fax: 973-596-5222
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  • Cheul H. Cho

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Biomedical Engineering, New Jersey Institute of Technology, University Heights Newark, New Jersey 07102; telephone: 973-596-5381; fax: 973-596-5222
    • Department of Biomedical Engineering, New Jersey Institute of Technology, University Heights Newark, New Jersey 07102; telephone: 973-596-5381; fax: 973-596-5222
    Search for more papers by this author

Abstract

The in vitro generation of a three-dimensional (3-D) myocardial tissue-like construct employing cells, biomaterials, and biomolecules is a promising strategy in cardiac tissue regeneration, drug testing, and tissue engineering applications. Despite significant progress in this field, current cardiac tissue models are not yet able to stably maintain functional characteristics of cardiomyocytes for long-term culture and therapeutic purposes. The objective of this study was to fabricate bioactive 3-D chitosan nanofiber scaffolds using an electrospinning technique and exploring its potential for long-term cardiac function in the 3-D co-culture model. Chitosan is a natural polysaccharide biomaterial that is biocompatible, biodegradable, non-toxic, and cost effective. Electrospun chitosan was utilized to provide structural scaffolding characterized by scale and architectural resemblance to the extracellular matrix (ECM) in vivo. The chitosan fibers were coated with fibronectin via adsorption in order to enhance cellular adhesion to the fibers and migration into the interfibrous milieu. Ventricular cardiomyocytes were harvested from neonatal rats and studied in various culture conditions (i.e., mono- and co-cultures) for their viability and function. Cellular morphology and functionality were examined using immunofluorescent staining for alpha-sarcomeric actin (SM-actin) and gap junction protein, Connexin-43 (Cx43). Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and light microscopy were used to investigate cellular morphology, spatial organization, and contractions. Calcium indicator was used to monitor calcium ion flux of beating cardiomyocytes. The results demonstrate that the chitosan nanofibers retained their cylindrical morphology in long-term cell cultures and exhibited good cellular attachment and spreading in the presence of adhesion molecule, fibronectin. Cardiomyocyte mono-cultures resulted in loss of cardiomyocyte polarity and islands of non-coherent contractions. However, the cardiomyocyte-fibroblast co-cultures resulted in polarized cardiomyocyte morphology and retained their morphology and function for long-term culture. The Cx43 expression in the fibroblast co-culture was higher than the cardiomyocytes mono-culture and endothelial cells co-culture. In addition, fibroblast co-cultures demonstrated synchronized contractions involving large tissue-like cellular networks. To our knowledge, this is the first attempt to test chitosan nanofiber scaffolds as a 3-D cardiac co-culture model. Our results demonstrate that chitosan nanofibers can serve as a potential scaffold that can retain cardiac structure and function. These studies will provide useful information to develop a strategy that allows us to generate engineered 3-D cardiac tissue constructs using biocompatible and biodegradable chitosan nanofiber scaffolds for many tissue engineering applications. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2013; 110: 637–647. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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