• Human embryonic stem cells;
  • Myogenesis;
  • Fluorescence microscope;
  • Embryoid body


Cell replacement strategies are promising interventions aiming to improve myocardial performance. Yet, the electrophysiological impact of these approaches has not been elucidated. We assessed the electrophysiological consequences of grafting of two candidate cell types, that is, skeletal myoblasts and human embryonic stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes (hESC-CMs). The fluorescently labeled (DiO) candidate cells were grafted into the rat's left ventricular myocardium. Two weeks later, optical mapping was performed using the Langendorff-perfused rat heart preparation. Images were obtained with appropriate filters to delineate the heart's anatomy, to identify the DiO-labeled cells, and to associate this information with the voltage-mapping data (using the voltage-sensitive dye PGH-I). Histological examination revealed the lack of gap junctions between grafted skeletal myotubes and host cardiomyocytes. In contrast, positive Cx43 immunostaining was observed between donor and host cardiomyocytes in the hESC-CMs-transplanted hearts. Optical mapping demonstrated either normal conduction (four of six) or minimal conduction slowing (two of six) at the hESC-CMs engraftment sites. In contrast, marked slowing of conduction or conduction block was seen (seven of eight) at the myoblast transplantation sites. Ventricular arrhythmias could not be induced in the hESC-CM hearts following programmed electrical stimulation but were inducible in 50% of the myoblast-engrafted hearts. In summary, a unique method for assessment of the electrophysiological impact of myocardial cell therapy is presented. Our results demonstrate the ability of hESC-CMs to functionally integrate with host tissue. In contrast, transplantation of cells that do not form gap junctions (skeletal myoblats) led to localized conduction disturbances and to the generation of a proarrhythmogenic substrate. STEM CELLS 2010;28:2151–2161