The Utilisation of Hydrogels for iPSC-Cardiomyocyte Research

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Cardiac fibroblasts’ (FBs) and cardiomyocytes’ (CMs) behaviour and morphology are influenced by their environment such as remodelling of the myocardium, thus highlighting the importance of biomaterial substrates in cell culture. Biomaterials have emerged as important tools for the development of physiological models, due to the range of adaptable properties of these materials, such as degradability and biocompatibility. Biomaterial hydrogels can act as alternative substrates for cellular studies, which have been particularly key to the progression of the cardiovascular field. This review will focus on the role of hydrogels in cardiac research, specifically the use of natural and synthetic biomaterials such as hyaluronic acid, polydimethylsiloxane and polyethylene glycol for culturing induced pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes (iPSC-CMs). The ability to fine-tune mechanical properties such as stiffness and the versatility of biomaterials is assessed, alongside applications of hydrogels with iPSC-CMs. Natural hydrogels often display higher biocompatibility with iPSC-CMs but often degrade quicker, whereas synthetic hydrogels can be modified to facilitate cell attachment and decrease degradation rates. iPSC-CM structure and electrophysiology can be assessed on natural and synthetic hydrogels, often resolving issues such as immaturity of iPSC-CMs. Biomaterial hydrogels can thus provide a more physiological model of the cardiac extracellular matrix compared to traditional 2D models, with the cardiac field expansively utilising hydrogels to recapitulate disease conditions such as stiffness, encourage alignment of iPSC-CMs and facilitate further model development such as engineered heart tissues (EHTs).

Patel, L.; Worch, J.C.; Dove, A.P.; Gehmlich, K. The Utilisation of Hydrogels for iPSC-Cardiomyocyte Research. Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2023, 24, 9995.