Microsystems for biomimetic stimulation of cardiac cells
The heart is a complex integrated system that leverages mechanoelectrical signals to synchronize cardiomyocyte contraction and push blood throughout the body. The correct magnitude, timing, and distribution of these signals is critical for proper functioning of the heart; aberrant signals can lead to acute incidents, long-term pathologies, and even death. Due to the heart's limited regenerative capacity and the wide variety of pathologies, heart disease is often studied in vitro. However, it is difficult to accurately replicate the cardiac environment outside of the body. Studying the biophysiology of the heart in vitro typically consists of studying single cells in a tightly controlled static environment or whole tissues in a complex dynamic environment. Micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) allow us to bridge these two extremes by providing increasing complexity for cell culture without having to use a whole tissue. Here, we carefully describe the electromechanical environment of the heart and discuss MEMS specifically designed to replicate these stimulation modes. Strengths, limitations and future directions of various designs are discussed for a variety of applications.