3D cardiac μtissues within a microfluidic device with real-time contractile stress readout
We present the development of three-dimensional (3D) cardiac microtissues within a microfluidic device with the ability to quantify real-time contractile stress measurements in situ. Using a 3D patterning technology that allows for the precise spatial distribution of cells within the device, we created an array of 3D cardiac microtissues from neonatal mouse cardiomyocytes. We integrated the 3D micropatterning technology with microfluidics to achieve perfused cell-laden structures. The cells were encapsulated within a degradable gelatin methacrylate hydrogel, which was sandwiched between two polyacrylamide hydrogels. The polyacrylamide hydrogels were used as “stress sensors” to acquire the contractile stresses generated by the beating cardiac cells. The cardiac-specific response of the engineered 3D system was examined by exposing it to epinephrine, an adrenergic neurotransmitter known to increase the magnitude and frequency of cardiac contractions. In response to exogenous epinephrine the engineered cardiac tissues exhibited an increased beating frequency and stress magnitude. Such cost-effective and easy-to-adapt 3D cardiac systems with real-time functional readout could be an attractive technological platform for drug discovery and development.