Dual Function of iPSC-Derived Pericyte-Like Cells in Vascularization and Fibrosis-Related Cardiac Tissue Remodeling In Vitro.
Myocardial interstitial fibrosis (MIF) is characterized by excessive extracellular matrix (ECM) deposition, increased myocardial stiffness, functional weakening, and compensatory cardiomyocyte (CM) hypertrophy. Fibroblasts (Fbs) are considered the principal source of ECM, but the contribution of perivascular cells, including pericytes (PCs), has gained attention, since MIF develops primarily around small vessels. The pathogenesis of MIF is difficult to study in humans because of the pleiotropy of mutually influencing pathomechanisms, unpredictable side effects, and the lack of available patient samples. Human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) offer the unique opportunity for the de novo formation of bioartificial cardiac tissue (BCT) using a variety of different cardiovascular cell types to model aspects of MIF pathogenesis in vitro. Here, we have optimized a protocol for the derivation of hPSC-derived PC-like cells (iPSC-PCs) and present a BCT in vitro model of MIF that shows their central influence on interstitial collagen deposition and myocardial tissue stiffening. This model was used to study the interplay of different cell types-i.e., hPSC-derived CMs, endothelial cells (ECs), and iPSC-PCs or primary Fbs, respectively. While iPSC-PCs improved the sarcomere structure and supported vascularization in a PC-like fashion, the functional and histological parameters of BCTs revealed EC- and PC-mediated effects on fibrosis-related cardiac tissue remodeling.