BEaTS-α an open access 3D printed device for in vitro electromechanical stimulation of human induced pluripotent stem cells

BEaTS-α is an open-source system for the electromechanical stimulation of cells in vitro. With its simple design, free access code and CAD files for in-lab printing and assembly, we see this device as a low-cost and viable strategy for harmonizing hiPSC-CM differentiation and maturation protocols.

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While mature human induced pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes (hiPSC-CMs) hold much promise in the development of models and materials for the study and treatment of cardiac diseases involving contractile and electrophysiological dysfunction. The protocols used for hiPSC differentiation towards cardiomyocytes and subsequent maturation are not something that is harmonized between research groups, which contributes to the lack of clear consensus on what constitutes a mature cardiomyocyte.

We, at the BioEngineering and Therapeutic Solutions (BEaTS) Lab at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute ( & @BEaTSResearch), set out to develop a relatively simple, low-cost, and open-access device to be used as a tool to further study and develop marker-maturity relationships as well as provide a source of well-defined hiPSC-CMs for use in the development of disease models and therapeutic solutions. The device (BEaTS-α) was designed using Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software and most components were 3D printed in-house using autoclavable and FDA approved filament. Combined with a commercially available C-PACE EP system, our device is capable of electromechanically stimulating cells cultured on flexible silicone membranes fitted to a standard 6-well plate.

Overall, BEaTS-α is a compact and open-access system that is capable of partially recapitulating the natural contraction and signal propagation found within the heart. Our experiments indicated that hiPSC-CM cells cultured under electromechanical stimulation with our device showed a more mature cardiomyocyte phenotype than non-stimulated cells after only 7 days of stimulation.  

Considering the simplicity of the device, it is easy to envision that through small modifications to the code and hardware that BEaTS-α could also find applications in the in vitro study of other electro-responsive tissues such as muscles and nerves. Moving forward, we will use the skills and expertise we gained in designing, fabricating, and testing this device to develop other tools and bioreactors which will simplify the maturation and conditioning of biosynthetic soft tissue and organ targets.


        Caption: Video highlighting the features of the BEaTS-α device.

This work was recently published in Scientific Reports:

“BEaTS-α an open access 3D printed device for in vitro electromechanical stimulation of human induced pluripotent stem cells”, Scientific Reports (2020).

Go to the profile of Christopher D. McTiernan

Christopher D. McTiernan

Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Ottawa Heart Institute

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