Reconstitution of the Frank-Starling mechanism in engineered heart tissues

Clara F. Asnes, J. Pablo Marquez, Elliot L. Elson, Tetsuro Wakatsuki

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38 Scopus citations


According to the Frank-Starling mechanism, as the heart is stretched, it increases its contraction force. Reconstitution of the Frank-Starling mechanism is an important milestone for producing functional heart tissue constructs. Spontaneously contracting engineered heart tissues (EHTs) were reconstituted by growing dissociated chicken embryo cardiomyocytes in collagen matrices. Twitch and baseline tensions were recorded at precisely controlled levels of tissue strain. The EHTs showed a steep increase in twitch tension from 0.47 ± 0.02 to 0.91 ± 0.02 mN/mm2 as they were stretched at a constant rate (2.67% per min) from 86% to 100% of the length at which maximum twitch force was exerted. In response to a sudden stretch (3.3%), the twitch tension increased gradually (∼60 s) in a Gd3+-sensitive manner, suggesting the presence of stretch-activated Ca2+ channels. A large difference in baseline tension between lengthening (loading) and shortening (unloading) was also recorded. Disruption of nonsarcomeric actin filaments by cytochalasin D and latrunculin B decreased this difference. A simple mechanical model interprets these results in terms of mechanical connections between myocytes and nonmuscle cells. The experimental results strongly suggest that regulation of twitch tension in EHTs is similar to that of natural myocardium.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1800-1810
Number of pages11
JournalBiophysical Journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2006


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