PLoS One.   8:e55233 (2013)

The Long-Term Differentiation of Embryonic Stem Cells into Cardiomyocytes An Indirect Co-Culture Model.

Ou DB, Zeng D, Jin Y, Liu XT, Teng JW, Guo WG, Wang HT, Su FF, He Y, Zheng QS.


Embryonic Stem Cells (ESCs) can differentiate into cardiomyocytes (CMs) in vitro but the differentiation level from ESCs is low. Here we describe a simple co-culture model by commercially available Millicell™ hanging cell culture inserts to control the long-term differentiation of ESCs into CMs.

Mouse ESCs were cultured in hanging drops to form embryoid bodies (EBs) and treated with 0.1 mmol/L ascorbic acid to induce the differentiation of ESCs into CMs. In the indirect co-culture system, EBs were co-cultured with epidermal keratinocytes (EKs) or neonatal CMs (NCMs) by the hanging cell culture inserts (PET membranes with 1 µm pores). The molecular expressions and functional properties of ESC-derived CMs in prolonged culture course were evaluated. During time course of ESC differentiation, the percentages of EBs with contracting areas in NCMs co-culture were significantly higher than that without co-culture or in EKs co-culture. The functional maintenance of ESC-derived CMs were more prominent in NCMs co-culture model.

These results indicate that NCMs co-culture promote ESC differentiation and has a further effect on cell growth and differentiation. We assume that the improvement of the differentiating efficiency of ESCs into CMs in the co-culture system do not result from the effect of co-culture directly on cell differentiation, but rather by signaling effects that influence the cells in proliferation and long-term function maintenance.

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