Heather Thompson, Senior EditorA research group has created a biohybrid hydrogel for heart tissue that provides electrical conduction without compromising heartbeat maturation or causing arrhythmias.
Scientists from Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) and other German institutes developed the biohybrid hydrogel to overcome inefficient electrical conducting in alternative methods. Their work was published in Advanced Functional Materials.
The hydrogel is made of collagen, alginate and an electroconductive poly blend, known as polyethylenedioxythiophene:polystyrene sulfonate (PEDOT:PSS). It mimics extracellular fibrous structures and enhances electrical coupling as well as cardiomyocyte maturation.
The PEDOT:PSS represents a departure from more widely-studied materials, polyaniline and polypyrrole, because of its ability to disperse water. Presence of PEDOT:PSS in the hydrogel improves electrical conductivity and prevents arrhythmia of tissue constructs containing neonatal rat cardiomyocytes.
Kaveh Roshanbinfar, a doctoral student at FAU and primary author of the study, noted to Cambridge University Press that existing treatments for cardiac tissue frequently cause cardiac arrhythmias, and insufficient electrical conduction within cardiac tissue.
During development, researchers sought alternatives to seeding prefabricated scaffolds and 3D biofabrication because these methods pack cells too tightly and do not create homogenous cell densities or uniform conductivity. Nonhomogenous cell densities can lead to cell death among other challenges. And non-uniform conductivity can lead to arrhythmia, as noted earlier.
The researchers also developed the graft so that it would be able to support pharmaceutical research that reduces the need for animal studies. Using the graft provides a platform to study the pharmacological effects of different drugs on cardiac function while expediting the preliminary screening processes in drug development.
Bioengineered cardiac tissue holds great promise in treating various cardiovascular diseases. Developing the processes and fine-tuning the materials are important steps in advancing the science.