Aims Myocardial cell replacement therapies are hampered by a paucity of sources for human cardiomyocytes and by the expected immune rejection of allogeneic cell grafts. The ability to derive patient-specific human-induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) may provide a solution to these challenges. We aimed to derive hiPSCs from heart failure (HF) patients, to induce their cardiomyocyte differentiation, to characterize the generated hiPSC-derived cardiomyocytes (hiPSC-CMs), and to evaluate their ability to integrate with pre-existing cardiac tissue.
Methods and results Dermal fibroblasts from two HF patients were reprogrammed by retroviral delivery of Oct4, Sox2, and Klf4 or by using an excisable polycistronic lentiviral vector. The resulting HF-hiPSCs displayed adequate reprogramming properties and could be induced to differentiate into cardiomyocytes with the same efficiency as control hiPSCs (derived from human foreskin fibroblasts). Gene expression and immunostaining studies confirmed the cardiomyocyte phenotype of the differentiating HF-hiPSC-CMs. Multi-electrode array recordings revealed the development of a functional cardiac syncytium and adequate chronotropic responses to adrenergic and cholinergic stimulation. Next, functional integration and synchronized electrical activities were demonstrated between hiPSC-CMs and neonatal rat cardiomyocytes in co-culture studies. Finally, in vivo transplantation studies in the rat heart revealed the ability of the HF-hiPSC-CMs to engraft, survive, and structurally integrate with host cardiomyocytes.
Conclusions Human-induced pluripotent stem cells can be established from patients with advanced heart failure and coaxed to differentiate into cardiomyocytes, which can integrate with host cardiac tissue. This novel source for patient-specific heart cells may bring a unique value to the emerging field of cardiac regenerative medicine.