artinelli, Cellot 2013

2013 - ACS Nano. 2013 Jul 23;7(7):5746-56

Carbon nanotubes instruct physiological growth and functionally mature syncytia: nongenetic engineering of cardiac myocytes

Martinelli V, Cellot G, Toma FM, Long CS, Caldwell JH, Zentilin L, Giacca M, Turco A, Prato M, Ballerini L, Mestroni L.


Myocardial tissue engineering currently represents one of the most realistic strategies for cardiac repair. We have recently discovered the ability of carbon nanotube scaffolds to promote cell division and maturation in cardiomyocytes. Here, we test the hypothesis that carbon nanotube scaffolds promote cardiomyocyte growth and maturation by altering the gene expression program, implementing the cell electrophysiological properties and improving networking and maturation of functional syncytia. In our study, we combine microscopy, biological and electrophysiological methodologies, and calcium imaging, to verify whether neonatal rat ventricular myocytes cultured on substrates of multiwall carbon nanotubes acquire a physiologically more mature phenotype compared to control (gelatin). We show that the carbon nanotube substrate stimulates the induction of a gene expression profile characteristic of terminal differentiation and physiological growth, with a 2-fold increase of α-myosin heavy chain (P < 0.001) and upregulation of sarcoplasmic reticulum Ca(2+) ATPase 2a. In contrast, markers of pathological hypertrophy remain unchanged (β-myosin heavy chain, skeletal α-actin, atrial natriuretic peptide). These modifications are paralleled by an increase of connexin-43 gene expression, gap junctions and functional syncytia. Moreover, carbon nanotubes appear to exert a protective effect against the pathologic stimulus of phenylephrine. Finally, cardiomyocytes on carbon nanotubes demonstrate a more mature electrophysiological phenotype of syncytia and intracellular calcium signaling. Thus, carbon nanotubes interacting with cardiomyocytes have the ability to promote physiological growth and functional maturation. These properties are unique in the current vexing field of tissue engineering, and offer unprecedented perspectives in the development of innovative therapies for cardiac repair.


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