Researchers at University of California have conducted a research on the effects of the elasticity of the growth matrix in the culture media on the growth characteristics of cardiac muscle cells.  It has been found that the growth of cardiomyocytes depends on the stiffness of the growth matrix and they give a good growth when the matrix is rigid.It is known that the adult cardiomyocytes have low regeneration capacity in comparison to other cells. But, embryonic cardiomyocytes can proliferate in assistance with embryonic stem cells providing a large pool of new cardiac tissue. It has been known that cells when cultured in-vitro grow well when they are provided with the environment that imitates the in-vivo conditions. This research has revealed that a rigid environment not only enhances the rate of proliferation of existing cardiac muscle cells but also the generation capacity of new heart muscle cells from embryonic stem cells.

Normally, mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) which are a type of stem cells can give rise to different types of body cells depending upon the conditions provided. For example, soft growth matrices mimic the brain tissue and therefore, direct the differentiation of MSC into neurons. Similarly, rigid growth matrices that resemble bone tissue enhance the differentiation of MSCs into bone cells.

The study was conducted using the human and mouse embryonic stem cells by growing them on a silicon-based polymer whose thickness was varied during the course of research to study the effects. The study found that rigid matrices enhance the differentiation of more cardiomyocytes from embryonic stem cells. Also, the embryonic stem cells derived cardiomyocytes showed more functional maturation and synchronization in beating when they were extracted from a developing embryo.

Future research is directed to determine different physical factors for enhancing the differentiation fate of ES cells for cardiac tissue engineering and regenerative medicine purposes.

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