1 min readScientists Grow Cardiac Tissue on ‘Spider Silk’ Substrate

Moscow, Russia — Researchers from Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology have found that genetically engineered fibres spidroin, the main protein component of spider webs, can be a perfect substrate for cultivating heart tissue cells.

Cultivating organs and tissues from patient’s cells is the bleeding edge of medical research. Regenerative methods can solve the problem of transplant rejection, however, it’s quite a challenge to find a suitable frame or substrate to grow the cells on. The material should be non-toxic, elastic and must not be rejected by the body or impede cell growth.

A group of researchers led by Professor Konstantin Agladze, head of the Laboratory of Biophysics of Excitable Systems at MIPT, have been cultivating fully functional cardiac tissues, able to contract and conduct excitation waves, from the heart muscle cells, cardiomyocytes. In their earlier studies, the group used synthetic polymeric nanofibres but recently, they decided to assay another material – electrospunfibers of the spider cobweb protein spidroin.

Cobweb strands are incredibly light and durable – they are five times stronger than steel, twice more elastic than nylon, and are capable of stretching a third of their length. The structure of spidroin molecules that make up cobweb drag lines is similar to that of the silk protein, fibroin, but the spidroin-based material is much stronger.

Researchers would normally use artificial spidroin fibre matrices as a substrate to grow implants like bones, tendons and cartilages, as well as dressings. Professor Agladze’s team decided to find out whether a spidroin substrate derived from genetically modified yeast cells can also serve to grow cardiac cells. They seeded isolated neonatal rat cardiomyocytes on fibre matrices and monitored the growth of cells on the new substrate. Using a microscope and fluorescent markers, the researchers then tested the ability of cardiomyocytes to contract and to conduct electric impulses, which are the main features of normal cardiac tissue.

Within three to five days a layer of cells formed on the substrate that were able to contract synchronously and conduct electrical impulses, just like the tissue of a living heart would.

“We can answer positively all questions we put at the beginning of this research project,” Professor Agladze says. “Cardiac tissue cells successfully adhere to the substrate of recombinant spidroin; they grow forming layers and are fully functional, which means they can contract coordinately.”

Article adapted from a Moscow institute of Physics and Technology news release.

 Publication: Functional Analysis of the Engineered Cardiac Tissue Grown on Recombinant Spidroin Fiber Meshes Teplenin A  et al. PLoS One. (April 10, 2015): Click here to view.

Heart, Tissue Engineering, Translational Medicine

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