In this study, we describe a bioreactor system to deliver controlled stretch protocols to bioengineered heart muscle (BEHMs) and test the system when streptomycin (an aminoglycoside antibiotic, which blocks stretch-activated channels) is either added to or excluded from the culture medium. Streptomycin is a very commonly used component of cell culture antibiotic–antimycotic media additives, so its effects on muscle development and functional response to mechanical signals in vitro is worthy of investigation. Our hypothesis is that BEHMs will not adapt to the applied mechanical stretch protocol when streptomycin is present in the culture medium, but will do so when streptomycin is excluded. Bioengineered heart muscles were formed by culturing primary neonatal cardiac myo-cytes in a fibrin gel using a method previously developed in our laboratory. A custom bioreactor system was designed using SolidWorks and structural components manufactured using fusion deposition modeling. We utilized a stretch protocol of 1 Hz, 10% strain for 7 d. BEHMs were stretched in the presence and absence of streptomycin. As controls, BEHMs were maintained in a cell culture incubator with and without streptomycin. The contractile properties of all BEHMs were evaluated to determine the active force. We were able to demonstrate compatibility of the bioreactor system with BEHMs and were able to stretch 58 constructs with zero incidence of failure. When the BEHMs were stretched in the absence of streptomycin, the active force increased from a mean value of 51.7±5.6 (N= 10) to 102.4±16.3 μN (N=10), with p<0.05. However, BEHMs that were stretched in the presence of streptomycin did not show any significant increase in active force generation. The average active force of BEHMs increased from a mean value of 57.6±10.2 (N=10) to 91.4±19.8 μN (N=10) when stretched in the presence of streptomycin. In this study, we demonstrate compatibility of the a bioreactor system with BEHMs, stability of the BEHMs in response to stretch protocols, and significant functional improvement in response to controlled stretch only when streptomycin is excluded from the culture medium, supporting our hypothesis.
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Vol. 44 • No. 7