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A research team develops a mini-factory of human cardiac tissue

Researchers from the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC) at the Barcelona Science Park, in collaboration with scientists from the Centre of Regenerative Medicine in Barcelona (CMR[B]), the University of Barcelona (UB), the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC) and the CIBER-BBN have developed a system which is capable of producing tissues in a laboratory that simulate the behaviour of the human heart. The new platform, named CardioSlice, could be used to pre-evaluate the toxicity of drugs in the heart without using animal models. The results of this innovation work have announced in an article recently published in the journal Stem Cell Reports.


The production of tissues in a laboratory that are capable of behaving similarly to the human heart is still a challenge. Now a multidisciplinar team of scientists from IBEC, CMR[B], UB, UPC and CIBER-BBN has created a new bioengineering system that could represent a major breakthrough in this field.

The new platform, named CardioSlice, is capable of producing cardiac tissues with very special properties from human pluripotent stem cells (PSC) and three-dimensional matrices. The artificial tissues obtained produce an electrical signal similar to an electrocardiogram and they respond to drugs in the same way that a human heart does 

To this end, scientists and engineers at IBEC and CMR[B] have designed and built a parallel chain of bioreactors that allow for the stimulation, observation and in situ study of the electrophysiology of the resulting tissue, as well as the impact of external factors such as, for example, drugs with cardiotoxic effects.

In the words of Elena Martínez, principle investigator at IBEC and professor at the University of Barcelona (UB): “CardioSlice is like a mini-factory of tissues that could help us to discern which medicines can harm our heart.”

“The advanced analysis of the electrophysiological signal of CardioSlice allows us to quantify changes in the ECG due to a drug’s effect, identifying changes in the heart rhythm, the appearance of ectopic QRS or the prolongation of the QT interval”, explains Raimon Jané, principal investigator of the Processes and Interpretation of Biomedical Signals group at the IBEC and professor at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC).

Researchers have shown in several videos the level of complexity of the tissues that CardioSlice allows to obtain and the spontaneous activity of these tissues in the form of contractions and signals analogous to those of an electrocardiogram (ECG) [see video]

Reference article: Valls-Margarit et al. “Engineered macroscale cardiac constructs elicit human myocardial tissue-like functionality“. Stem Cells Report, volumen 13, issue 1, p207-220 (2019

► For further information: IBEC website [+]