Modelling the interaction between stem cells derived cardiomyocytes patches and host myocardium to aid non-arrhythmic engineered heart tissue design

Damiano Fassina*, Caroline M. Costa, Stefano Longobardi, Elias Karabelas, Gernot Plank, Sian E. Harding, Steven A. Niederer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Application of epicardial patches constructed from human-induced pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes (hiPSC-CMs) has been proposed as a long-term therapy to treat scarred hearts post myocardial infarction (MI). Understanding electrical interaction between engineered heart tissue patches (EHT) and host myocardium represents a key step toward a successful patch engraftment. EHT retain different electrical properties with respect to the host heart tissue due to the hiPSC-CMs immature phenotype, which may lead to increased arrhythmia risk. We developed a modelling framework to examine the influence of patch design on electrical activation at the engraftment site. We performed an in-silico investigation of different patch design approaches to restore pre-MI activation properties and evaluated the associated arrhythmic risk. We developed an in silico cardiac electrophysiology model of a transmural cross section of host myocardium. The model featured an infarct region, an epicardial patch spanning the infarct region and a bath region. The patch is modelled as a layer of hiPSC-CM, combined with a layer of conductive polymer (CP). Tissue and patch geometrical dimensions and conductivities were incorporated through 10 modifiable model parameters. We validated our model against 4 independent experimental studies and showed that it can qualitatively reproduce their findings. We performed a global sensitivity analysis (GSA) to isolate the most important parameters, showing that the stimulus propagation is mainly governed by the scar depth, radius and conductivity when the scar is not transmural, and by the EHT patch conductivity when the scar is transmural. We assessed the relevance of small animal studies to humans by comparing simulations of rat, rabbit and human myocardium. We found that stimulus propagation paths and GSA sensitivity indices are consistent across species. We explored which EHT design variables have the potential to restore physiological propagation. Simulations predict that increasing EHT conductivity from 0.28 to 1–1.1 S/m recovered physiological activation in rat, rabbit and human. Finally, we assessed arrhythmia risk related to increasing EHT conductivity and tested increasing the EHT Na+ channel density as an alternative strategy to match healthy activation. Our results revealed a greater arrhythmia risk linked to increased EHT conductivity compared to increased Na+ channel density. We demonstrated that our modeling framework could capture the interaction between host and EHT patches observed in in vitro experiments. We showed that large (patch and tissue dimensions) and small (cardiac myocyte electrophysiology) scale differences between small animals and humans do not alter EHT patch effect on infarcted tissue. Our model revealed that only when the scar is transmural do EHT properties impact activation times and isolated the EHT conductivity as the main parameter influencing propagation. We predicted that restoring physiological activation by tuning EHT conductivity is possible but may promote arrhythmic behavior. Finally, our model suggests that acting on hiPSC-CMs low action potential upstroke velocity and lack of IK1 may restore pre-MI activation while not promoting arrhythmia.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1010030
JournalPLoS Computational Biology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022


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