Volume adaptation of neonatal cardiomyocyte spheroids in 3D stiffness gradient GelMA

Ian L. Chin, Sebastian E. Amos, Ji Hoon Jeong, Livia Hool, Yongsung Hwang, Yu Suk Choi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Present understandings of cardiomyocyte mechanobiology have primarily been developed using 2-dimensional, monocellular cell cultures, however the emergence of 3-dimensional (3D) multicellular cardiac constructs has enabled us to develop more sophisticated recapitulations of the cardiac microenvironment. Several of these strategies have illustrated that incorporating elements of the extracellular matrix (ECM) can promote greater maturation and enhance desirable cardiac functions, such as contractility, but the responses of these cardiac constructs to biophysically aberrant conditions, such as in the post-infarct heart, has remained relatively unexplored. In our study, we employ a stiffness gradient gelatin methacryloyl (GelMA) hydrogel platform to unpack the mechanobiology of cardiac spheroids. We encapsulated neonatal rat cardiac cell spheroids in a 4.4-18.7 kPa linear stiffness gradient up to 120 h. We found the proportion of viable cells within the spheroids increased over time, but the cell number per spheroid decreased. Spheroids expand more in softer matrices while stiffer matrices promote larger nuclei without changing nuclei shape. Volume expansion came primarily from cells expressing vimentin. We did not observe any correlations between stiffness and mechanomarker expression, however we found that after 120 h post-encapsulation, the localization of YAP, the localization of MRTF-A and the expression of Lamin-A was correlated with spheroid morphology. The same trends were not observed 24 h post-encapsulation, indicating that volume adaptation can take a relatively long time. Our data demonstrates that cardiac spheroids are mechanosensitive and that their capacity to respond to ECM-based cues depends on their capacity to adapt their volume with a 3D microenvironment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)801-813
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Biomedical Materials Research Part A
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023


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