Development of a microphysiological system that integrates and differentiates tissue-specific ECs
Blood vessels are integral to the maintenance of all tissues. They deliver oxygen and nutrients and remove waste. Endothelial cells line blood vessels are positioned in close proximity to surrounding cells in the tissues. In the heart, for instance, every cardiomyocyte touches an endothelial cell. Endothelial cells form a barrier that delivers fatty acids to cardiomyocytes fulfilling their high energy demand. The aim of ESR3 project would be to develop a microphysiological system that integrates and differentiates heart-specific endothelial cells (ECs) and cardiomyocytes differentiated from human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs). The system will closely mimic EC-CM interaction via culture of the cells in a microfluidic chip. Furthermore, integration of synthetic matrixes, inflammatory cells and growth factors would facilitate understanding of how cardiac-specific phenotype of ECs is regulated, and whether it is distinctive for their function and vice versa, insight into whether ECs or an “artificial EC” barrier facilitate maturation of iPSC-derived CMs and how microfluidic flow impacts this process.