Directed Differentiation of Zebrafish Pluripotent Embryonic Cells to Functional Cardiomyocytes
Cardiotoxicity testing is a key activity in the pharmaceutical industry in order to detect detrimental effects of new drugs. A reliable human in vitro model would both be beneficial in selection of lead compounds and be important for reducing animal experimentation. However, the human heart is a complex organ composed of many distinct types of cardiomyocytes, but cardiomyocyte clusters (CMCs) derived from human embryonic stem cells could be an option for a cellular model. Data on functional properties of CMCs demonstrate similarities to their in vivo analogues in human. However, development of an in vitro model requires a more thorough comparison of CMCs to human heart tissue. Therefore, we directly compared individually isolated CMCs to human fetal, neonatal, adult atrial and ventricular heart tissues. Real-time qPCR analysis of mRNA levels and protein staining of ion channels and cardiac markers showed in general a similar expression pattern in CMCs and human heart. Moreover, a significant decrease in beat frequency was noted after addition of Zatebradine, a blocker to I(f) involved in regulation of spontaneous contraction in CMCs. The results underscore the similarities of CMCs to human cardiac tissue, and further support establishment of novel cardiotoxicity assays based on the CMCs in drug discovery.