Biomaterializing the promise of cardiac tissue engineering.


During an average individual's lifespan, the human heart pumps nearly 200 million liters of blood delivered by approximately 3 billion heartbeats. Therefore, it is not surprising that native myocardium under this incredible demand is extraordinarily complex, both structurally and functionally. As a result, successful engineering of adult-mimetic functional cardiac tissues is likely to require utilization of highly specialized biomaterials representative of the native extracellular microenvironment. There is currently no single biomaterial that fully recapitulates the architecture or the biochemical and biomechanical properties of adult myocardium. However, significant effort has gone toward designing highly functional materials and tissue constructs that may one day provide a ready source of cardiac tissue grafts to address the overwhelming burden of cardiomyopathic disease. In the near term, biomaterial-based scaffolds are helping to generate in vitro systems for querying the mechanisms underlying human heart homeostasis and disease and discovering new, patient-specific therapeutics. When combined with advances in minimally-invasive cardiac delivery, ongoing efforts will likely lead to scalable cell and biomaterial technologies for use in clinical practice. In this review, we describe recent progress in the field of cardiac tissue engineering with particular emphasis on use of biomaterials for therapeutic tissue design and delivery.