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Cultured primary adult rodent heart cells are an important model system for cardiovascular research. Nevertheless, establishment of robust, viable cultured adult myocytes can be a technically challenging, rate-limiting step for many researchers. Here we described a protocol to obtain a high yield of adult rat heart myocytes that remain viable in culture for several days. The heart is isolated and perfused with collagenase and protease under low Ca2+ conditions to recover single myocytes. Ca2+-tolerant cells are obtained by stepwise increases in extracellular Ca2+ concentration in three subsequent wash steps. Cells are filtered, resuspended in culture medium, and plated on laminin coated slips. Cultured myocytes obtained using this protocol are viable for up to four days and are suitable for most experiments including electrophysiology, biochemistry, imaging and molecular biology.
There should be more than 70% live heart myocytes under inverted microscope when the protocol is done correctly.
Table 1: Solution recipe for 1 L 10X Ca2+-free KH Buffer:
Table 2: Solution recipe for 1 L Buffer A:Add 1.98 g glucose to 100 mL 10X KH buffer and bring to a final volume of 1 L. Adjust osmolarity to near physiology condition (~300) with glucose. Bring to pH 7.4 with NaOH.
Table 3: Solution recipe for EnzymeBuffers
Table 4: Solution recipe for 25X BDM/Taurine/BSA (B/T/B)
Table 5: Solution recipe for Buffer B and Wash Buffers
Table 6: Solution Recipe for Culturing Media
A critical step is the speed with which the isolated heart is hung up on the perfusion system. The length of the enzymatic digestion period may be a little different for each rat. The adjustment depends on how soft the heart becomes after the regular period of digestion. The slowly recovery of Ca2+ after enzyme digestion is essential for obtaining Ca2+-tolerant healthy cells.
For guinea pig, the protocol is the same except hyaluronidase is used instead of Protease XIV. Typically, we find the that initial percentage of living cells is lower for guinea pig compared to rat, although they survive just as long in culture.