Research Highlight

New silicon-based model useful for studying an ailing heart

doi:10.1038/nindia.2018.44 Published online 19 April 2018

Researchers have created a silicon-based platform that can be used to grow cardiac muscle cells isolated from newborn rats1. This platform will be useful for deciphering the molecular mechanisms of heart diseases that thicken the inner walls of heart chambers and eventually enlarge a heart. 

Existing models that use specific proteins to culture cardiac muscle cells on any artificial scaffold fail to properly mimic the microenvironment of an ailing heart.

To develop a better model for studying heart diseases, scientists from the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, India, produced the silicon-based platform with micro-ridges. They coated it with a protein, grew rat cardiac muscle cells on it and then exposed the cells to a chemical that enlarges a heart.

By day three, the cultured cardiac muscle cells remarkably aligned themselves. A closer look revealed a clear array of sarcomere, the functional and structural unit of the cardiac muscle cells.  A light-emitting calcium ion detector also helped track calcium ion transport in the cultured cells.  

This observation of calcium ion transport is very significant since this process helps contract the cardiac muscle cells – a phenomenon that contributes to the proper functioning of a heart.

The scientists then used a specific chemical that enlarged the cultured cells, inducing them to secrete a marker protein that is expressed only in an enlarged heart. This enlargement-causing chemical also accelerated calcium ion transport in the cultured cells, suggesting their potential to unveil the secrets of heart diseases.


1. Jain, A. et al. Engineering an in vitro organotypic model for studying cardiac hypertrophy. Colloids. Surf. B.165, 355-362 (2018)