Constant-potential environment for activating and synchronizing cardiomyocyte colonies with on-chip ion-depleting perm-selective membranes†
In this study, an ion depleted zone created by an ion-selective membrane was used to impose a high and uniform constant extracellular potential over an entire ∼1000 cell rat cardiomyocyte (rCM) colony on-a-chip to trigger synchronized voltage-gated ion channel activities while preserving cell viability, thus extending single-cell voltage-clamp ion channel studies to an entire normalized colony. Image analysis indicated that rCM beating was strengthened and accelerated (by a factor of ∼2) within minutes of ion depletion and the duration of contraction and relaxation phases was significantly reduced. After the initial synchronization, the entire colony responds collectively to external potential changes such that beating over the entire colony can be activated or deactivated within 0.1 s. These newly observed collective dynamic responses, due to simultaneous ion channel activation/deactivation by a uniform constant-potential extracellular environment, suggest that perm-selective membrane modules on cell culture chips can facilitate studies of extracellular cardiac cell electrical communication and how ion-channel related pathologies affect cardiac cell synchronization. The future applications of this new technology can lead to better drug screening platforms for cardiotoxicity as well as platforms that can facilitate synchronized maturation of pluripotent stem cells into colonies with high electrical connectivity.