Advanced in Vitro Modeling to Study the Paradox of Mechanically Induced Cardiac Fibrosis

Thomas C.L. Bracco Gartner, Jeroen M. Stein, Dimitri E.P. Muylaert, Carlijn V.C. Bouten, Pieter A. Doevendans, Ali Khademhosseini, Willem J.L. Suyker, Joost P.G. Sluijter, and Jesper Hjortnaes

Published: 1 February 2021


In heart failure, cardiac fibrosis is the result of an adverse remodeling process. Collagen is continuously synthesized in the myocardium in an ongoing attempt of the heart to repair itself. The resulting collagen depositions act counterproductively, causing diastolic dysfunction and disturbing electrical conduction. Efforts to treat cardiac fibrosis specifically have not been successful and the molecular etiology is only partially understood. The differentiation of quiescent cardiac fibroblasts to extracellular matrix-depositing myofibroblasts is a hallmark of cardiac fibrosis and a key aspect of the adverse remodeling process. This conversion is induced by a complex interplay of biochemical signals and mechanical stimuli. Tissue-engineered 3D models to study cardiac fibroblast behavior in vitro indicate that cyclic strain can activate a myofibroblast phenotype. This raises the question how fibroblast quiescence is maintained in the healthy myocardium, despite continuous stimulation of ultimately profibrotic mechanotransductive pathways. In this review, we will discuss the convergence of biochemical and mechanical differentiation signals of myofibroblasts, and hypothesize how these affect this paradoxical quiescence.

Full Access Link: Tissue Engineering - Part C: Methods