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Enhancing the Development of Heart Cells Using Materials Derived from Silk

By January 4, 2019No Comments

In an exciting breakthrough that may have implications for stem cell-based treatment of heart disease, the lab of Dr. Deok-Ho Kim at the Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine (ISCRM) has successfully used silk-based materials to enhance the development of stem-cell derived cardiomyocytes.

In a recent study detailed in the Journal of Materials Chemistry, Dr. Kim and his lab set out to promote improved cell development and maturation by creating a more natural environment for cultured cardiomyocytes. (The paper, entitled Conductive Silk-Polypyrrole Composite Scaffolds with Bioinspired Nanotopographic Cues for Cardiac Tissue Engineering was also featured in a special issue of the Journal recognizing quality research being conducted by emerging investigators of materials chemistry in the areas of biology and medicine.)

The research effort aimed to address a current challenge: While stem-cell derived cardiomyocytes are good for generating heart tissue for drug screening and in vivo therapies, they tend to be phenotypically deficient, meaning they are unable to generate sufficient amounts of contractile force and can be more prone to arrythmia. These immature cells are therefore not suitable for transplantation.

In the investigation, Dr. Kim’s team focused on the extracellular matrix, which is important for the structure and functioning of cardiomyocytes and organs. The research team was able to show that silk-derived materials could mimic the functioning the extracellular matrix, a finding that points to the benefits of growing stem cell cultures in vitro using bioinspired platforms.