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Use of a neonatal rat system as a bioincubator to generate adult-like mature cardiomyocytes from human and mouse pluripotent stem cells

Nature Protocols volume 12, pages 20972109 (2017) | Download Citation


Pluripotent stem cells (PSCs), including induced PSCs, hold great potential for personalized disease modeling, drug testing and cell-based therapeutics. However, cells differentiated from PSCs remain immature in a dish, and thus there are serious caveats to their use in modeling adult-onset diseases such as cardiomyopathies and Alzheimer's disease. By taking advantage of knowledge gained about mammalian development and from bioinformatics analyses, we recently developed a neonatal rat system that enables maturation of PSC-derived cardiomyocytes into cardiomyocytes analogous to those seen in adult animals. Here we describe a detailed protocol that describes how to initiate the in vitro differentiation of mouse and human PSCs into cardiac progenitor cells, followed by intramyocardial delivery of the progenitor cells into neonatal rat hearts, in vivo incubation and analysis. The entire process takes 6 weeks, and the resulting cardiomyocytes can be analyzed for morphology, function and gene expression. The neonatal system provides a valuable tool for understanding the maturation and pathogenesis of adult human heart muscle cells, and this concept may be expanded to maturing other PSC-derived cell types, including those containing mutations that lead to the development of diseases in the adult.

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We thank Kwon laboratory members for critical reading and discussions. E.T. was supported by a Johns Hopkins School of Medicine Clinician Scientist Award. This work was supported by the Magic that Matters Fund and grants from the MSCRF (2015-MSCRFI-1622), NHLBI/NIH (R01HL111198) and NICHD/NIH (R01HD086026) to C.K.

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Author notes

    • Gun-Sik Cho
    •  & Emmanouil Tampakakis

    These authors contributed equally to this work.


  1. Division of Cardiology, Department of Medicine, Institute for Cell Engineering, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.

    • Gun-Sik Cho
    • , Emmanouil Tampakakis
    • , Peter Andersen
    •  & Chulan Kwon
  2. Laboratory of Stem Cells, NEXEL, Seoul, Republic of Korea.

    • Gun-Sik Cho


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G.-S.C. and C.K. designed the experiments. G.-S.C., E.T. and P.A. performed the experiments. G.-S.C., E.T. and P.A. analyzed the data. E.T. and P.A. created the figures. E.T., G.-S.C., P.A. and C.K. wrote the manuscript. All authors approved the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Chulan Kwon.

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