Engineering Cardiac Microphysiological Systems to Model Pathological Extracellular Matrix Remodeling


Many cardiovascular diseases are associated with pathological remodeling of the extracellular matrix (ECM) in the myocardium. ECM remodeling is a complex, multi-factorial process that often contributes to declines in myocardial function and progression towards heart failure. However, the direct effects of the many forms of ECM remodeling on myocardial cell and tissue function remain elusive, in part because conventional model systems used to investigate these relationships lack robust experimental control over the ECM. To address these shortcomings, microphysiological systems are now being developed and implemented to establish direct relationships between distinct features in the ECM and myocardial function with unprecedented control and resolution in vitro. In this review, we will first highlight the most prominent characteristics of ECM remodeling in cardiovascular disease and describe how these features can be mimicked with synthetic and natural biomaterials that offer independent control over multiple ECM-related parameters, such as rigidity and composition. We will then detail innovative microfabrication techniques that enable precise regulation of cellular architecture in 2- and 3-dimensions. We will also describe new approaches for quantifying multiple aspects of myocardial function in vitro, such as contractility, action potential propagation, and metabolism. Together, these collective technologies implemented as cardiac microphysiological systems will continue to uncover important relationships between pathological ECM remodeling and myocardial cell and tissue function, leading to new fundamental insights into cardiovascular disease, improved human disease models, and novel therapeutic approaches.

In American Journal of Physiology – Heart and Circulatory Physiology.