A Platform for Assessing Cellular Contractile Function Based on Magnetic Manipulation of Magnetoresponsive Hydrogel Films
Despite significant advancements in in vitro cardiac modeling approaches, researchers still lack the capacity to obtain in vitro measurements of a key indicator of cardiac function: contractility, or stroke volume under specific loading conditions—defined as the pressures to which the heart is subjected prior to and during contraction. This work puts forward a platform that creates this capability, by providing a means of dynamically controlling loading conditions in vitro. This dynamic tissue loading platform consists of a thin magnetoresponsive hydrogel cantilever on which 2D engineered myocardial tissue is cultured. Exposing the cantilever to an external magnetic field—generated by positioning magnets at a controlled distance from the cantilever—causes the hydrogel film to stretch, creating tissue load. Next, cell contraction is induced through electrical stimulation, and the force of the contraction is recorded, by measuring the cantilever's deflection. Force–length-based measurements of contractility are then derived, comparable to clinical measurements. In an illustrative application, the platform is used to measure contractility both in untreated myocardial tissue and in tissue exposed to an inotropic agent. Clear differences are observed between conditions, suggesting that the proposed platform has significant potential to provide clinically relevant measurements of contractility.