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1.  Comparison of NOGA Endocardial Mapping and Cardiac Magnetic Resonance Imaging for Determining Infarct Size and Infarct Transmurality for Intramyocardial Injection Therapy Using Experimental Data 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(11):e113245.
We compared the accuracy of NOGA endocardial mapping for delineating transmural and non-transmural infarction to the results of cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (cMRI) with late gadolinium enhancement (LE) for guiding intramyocardial reparative substance delivery using data from experimental myocardial infarction studies.
Sixty domestic pigs underwent diagnostic NOGA endocardial mapping and cMRI-LE 60 days after induction of closed-chest reperfused myocardial infarction. The infarct size was determined by LE of cMRI and by delineation of the infarct core on the unipolar voltage polar map. The sizes of the transmural and non-transmural infarctions were calculated from the cMRI transmurality map using signal intensity (SI) cut-offs of>75% and>25% and from NOGA bipolar maps using bipolar voltage cut-off values of <0.8 mV and <1.9 mV. Linear regression analysis and Bland-Altman plots were used to determine correlations and systematic differences between the two images. The overlapping ratios of the transmural and non-transmural infarcted areas were calculated.
Infarct size as determined by 2D NOGA unipolar voltage polar mapping correlated with the 3D cMRI-LE findings (r = 0.504, p<0.001) with a mean difference of 2.82% in the left ventricular (LV) surface between the two images. Polar maps of transmural cMRI and bipolar maps of NOGA showed significant association for determining of the extent of transmural infarction (r = 0.727, p<0.001, overlap ratio of 81.6±11.1%) and non-transmural infarction (r = 0.555, p<0.001, overlap ratio of 70.6±18.5%). NOGA overestimated the transmural scar size (6.81% of the LV surface) but slightly underestimated the size of the non-transmural infarction (−3.04% of the LV surface).
By combining unipolar and bipolar voltage maps, NOGA endocardial mapping is useful for accurate delineation of the targeted zone for intramyocardial therapy and is comparable to cMRI-LE. This may be useful in patients with contraindications for cMRI who require targeted intramyocardial regenerative therapy.
PMCID: PMC4237404  PMID: 25409528
2.  A Three-Dimensional Engineered Artery Model for In Vitro Atherosclerosis Research 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e79821.
The pathogenesis of atherosclerosis involves dysfunctions of vascular endothelial cells and smooth muscle cells as well as blood borne inflammatory cells such as monocyte-derived macrophages. In vitro experiments towards a better understanding of these dysfunctions are typically performed in two-dimensional cell culture systems. However, these models lack both the three-dimensional structure and the physiological pulsatile flow conditions of native arteries. We here describe the development and initial characterization of a tissue engineered artery equivalent, which is composed of human primary endothelial and smooth muscle cells and is exposed to flow in vitro. Histological analyses showed formation of a dense tissue composed of a tight monolayer of endothelial cells supported by a basement membrane and multiple smooth muscle cell layers. Both low (LDL) and high density lipoproteins (HDL) perfused through the artery equivalent were recovered both within endothelial cells and in the sub-endothelial intima. After activation of the endothelium with either tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNFα) or LDL, monocytes circulated through the model were found to adhere to the activated endothelium and to transmigrate into the intima. In conclusion, the described tissue engineered human artery equivalent model represents a significant step towards a relevant in vitro platform for the systematic assessment of pathogenic processes in atherosclerosis independently of any systemic factors.
PMCID: PMC3828234  PMID: 24244566
3.  Intramyocardial Transplantation and Tracking of Human Mesenchymal Stem Cells in a Novel Intra-Uterine Pre-Immune Fetal Sheep Myocardial Infarction Model: A Proof of Concept Study 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e57759.
Although stem-cell therapies have been suggested for cardiac-regeneration after myocardial-infarction (MI), key-questions regarding the in-vivo cell-fate remain unknown. While most available animal-models require immunosuppressive-therapy when applying human cells, the fetal-sheep being pre-immune until day 75 of gestation has been proposed for the in-vivo tracking of human cells after intra-peritoneal transplantation. We introduce a novel intra-uterine myocardial-infarction model to track human mesenchymal stem cells after direct intra-myocardial transplantation into the pre-immune fetal-sheep. Thirteen fetal-sheep (gestation age: 70–75 days) were included. Ten animals either received an intra-uterine induction of MI only (n = 4) or MI+intra-myocardial injection (IMI;n = 6) using micron-sized, iron-oxide (MPIO) labeled human mesenchymal stem cells either derived from the adipose-tissue (ATMSCs;n = 3) or the bone-marrow (BMMSCs;n = 3). Three animals received an intra-peritoneal injection (IPI;n = 3; ATMSCs;n = 2/BMMSCs;n = 1). All procedures were performed successfully and follow-up was 7–9 days. To assess human cell-fate, multimodal cell-tracking was performed via MRI and/or Micro-CT, Flow-Cytometry, PCR and immunohistochemistry. After IMI, MRI displayed an estimated amount of 1×105–5×105 human cells within ventricular-wall corresponding to the injection-sites which was further confirmed on Micro-CT. PCR and IHC verified intra-myocardial presence via detection of human-specific β-2-microglobulin, MHC-1, ALU-Sequence and anti-FITC targeting the fluorochrome-labeled part of the MPIOs. The cells appeared viable, integrated and were found in clusters or in the interstitial-spaces. Flow-Cytometry confirmed intra-myocardial presence, and showed further distribution within the spleen, lungs, kidneys and brain. Following IPI, MRI indicated the cells within the intra-peritoneal-cavity involving the liver and kidneys. Flow-Cytometry detected the cells within spleen, lungs, kidneys, thymus, bone-marrow and intra-peritoneal lavage, but not within the heart. For the first time we demonstrate the feasibility of intra-uterine, intra-myocardial stem-cell transplantation into the pre-immune fetal-sheep after MI. Utilizing cell-tracking strategies comprising advanced imaging-technologies and in-vitro tracking-tools, this novel model may serve as a unique platform to assess human cell-fate after intra-myocardial transplantation without the necessity of immunosuppressive-therapy.
PMCID: PMC3606388  PMID: 23533575
4.  Tissue-engineered vascular graft remodeling in a growing lamb model: expression of matrix metalloproteinases 
We have previously demonstrated the functionality and growth of autologous, living, tissue-engineered vascular grafts (TEVGs) in long-term animal studies. These grafts showed substantial in vivo tissue remodeling and approximation to native arterial wall characteristics. Based on this, in vitro and in vivo matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) activity of TEVGs is investigated as a key marker of matrix remodeling.
TEVGs fabricated from biodegradable scaffolds (polyglycolic-acid/poly-4-hydroxybutyrate, PGA/P4HB) seeded with autologous vascular cells were cultured in static and dynamic in vitro conditions. Thereafter, TEVGs were implanted as pulmonary artery replacements in lambs and followed up for 2 years. Gelatin gel zymography to detect MMP-2 and -9 was performed and collagen content quantified (n = 5). Latent (pro) and active MMP-2 and -9 were detected.
Comparable levels of active MMP-9 and pro-MMP-2 were detected in static and dynamic culture. Higher levels of active MMP-2 were detected in dynamic cultures. Expression of MMP-2 and -9 was minimal in native grafts but was increased in implanted TEVG. Pro-MMP-9 was expressed 20 weeks post implantation and persisted up to 80 weeks post implantation. Collagen content in vitro was increased in dynamically conditioned TEVG as compared with static constructs and was increased in vivo compared with the corresponding native pulmonary artery.
MMPs are up-regulated in vitro by dynamic culture conditions and could contribute to increased matrix remodeling, native analogous tissue formation and functional growth of TEVGs in vivo. Monitoring of MMP activity, for example, by molecular imaging techniques, may enable the non-invasive assessment of functional tissue quality in future clinical tissue-engineering applications.
PMCID: PMC3241092  PMID: 21530291
Matrix metalloproteinases; Tissue engineering; Vascular graft; Autologous; Growth; Cells
5.  Fibroblast activation protein is induced by inflammation and degrades type I collagen in thin-cap fibroatheromata 
European Heart Journal  2011;32(21):2713-2722.
Collagen degradation in atherosclerotic plaques with thin fibrous caps renders them more prone to rupture. Fibroblast activation protein (FAP) plays a role in arthritis and tumour formation through its collagenase activity. However, the significance of FAP in thin-cap human fibroatheromata remains unknown.
Methods and results
We detected enhanced FAP expression in type IV–V human aortic atheromata (n = 12), compared with type II–III lesions (n = 9; P < 0.01) and healthy aortae (n = 8; P < 0.01) by immunostaining and western blot analyses. Fibroblast activation protein was also increased in thin-cap (<65 µm) vs. thick-cap (≥65 µm) human coronary fibroatheromata (n = 12; P < 0.01). Fibroblast activation protein was expressed by human aortic smooth muscle cells (HASMC) as shown by colocalization on immunofluorescent aortic plaque stainings (n = 10; P < 0.01) and by flow cytometry in cell culture. Although macrophages did not express FAP, macrophage burden in human aortic plaques correlated with FAP expression (n = 12; R2= 0.763; P < 0.05). Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays showed a time- and dose-dependent up-regulation of FAP in response to human tumour necrosis factor α (TNFα) in HASMC (n = 6; P < 0.01). Moreover, supernatants from peripheral blood-derived macrophages induced FAP expression in cultured HASMC (n = 6; P < 0.01), an effect abolished by blocking TNFα (n = 6; P < 0.01). Fibroblast activation protein associated with collagen-poor regions in human coronary fibrous caps and digested type I collagen and gelatin in vitro (n = 6; P < 0.01). Zymography revealed that FAP-mediated collagenase activity was neutralized by an antibody directed against the FAP catalytic domain both in HASMC (n = 6; P < 0.01) and in fibrous caps of atherosclerotic plaques (n = 10; P < 0.01).
Fibroblast activation protein expression in HASMC is induced by macrophage-derived TNFα. Fibroblast activation protein associates with thin-cap human coronary fibroatheromata and contributes to type I collagen breakdown in fibrous caps.
PMCID: PMC3205479  PMID: 21292680
Atherosclerosis; Antibodies; Collagen; Inflammation; Smooth muscle cells
6.  EH-myomesin splice isoform is a novel marker for dilated cardiomyopathy 
Basic Research in Cardiology  2010;106(2):233-247.
The M-band is the prominent cytoskeletal structure that cross-links the myosin and titin filaments in the middle of the sarcomere. To investigate M-band alterations in heart disease, we analyzed the expression of its main components, proteins of the myomesin family, in mouse and human cardiomyopathy. Cardiac function was assessed by echocardiography and compared to the expression pattern of myomesins evaluated with RT-PCR, Western blot, and immunofluorescent analysis. Disease progression in transgenic mouse models for dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) was accompanied by specific M-band alterations. The dominant splice isoform in the embryonic heart, EH-myomesin, was strongly up-regulated in the failing heart and correlated with a decrease in cardiac function (R = −0.86). In addition, we have analyzed the expressions of myomesins in human myocardial biopsies (N = 40) obtained from DCM patients, DCM patients supported by a left ventricular assist device (LVAD), hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) patients and controls. Quantitative RT-PCR revealed that the EH-myomesin isoform was up-regulated 41-fold (P < 0.001) in the DCM patients compared to control patients. In DCM hearts supported by a LVAD and HCM hearts, the EH-myomesin expression was comparable to controls. Immunofluorescent analyses indicate that EH-myomesin was enhanced in a cell-specific manner, leading to a higher heterogeneity of the myocytes’ cytoskeleton through the myocardial wall. We suggest that the up-regulation of EH-myomesin denotes an adaptive remodeling of the sarcomere cytoskeleton in the dilated heart and might serve as a marker for DCM in mouse and human myocardium.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00395-010-0131-2) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3032906  PMID: 21069531
Dilated cardiomyopathy; Heart failure; Sarcomere cytoskeleton; M-band; Myomesin
7.  Coronary optical frequency domain imaging (OFDI) for in vivo evaluation of stent healing: comparison with light and electron microscopy 
European Heart Journal  2010;31(14):1792-1801.
Coronary late stent thrombosis, a rare but devastating complication, remains an important concern in particular with the increasing use of drug-eluting stents. Notably, pathological studies have indicated that the proportion of uncovered coronary stent struts represents the best morphometric predictor of late stent thrombosis. Intracoronary optical frequency domain imaging (OFDI), a novel second-generation optical coherence tomography (OCT)-derived imaging method, may allow rapid imaging for the detection of coronary stent strut coverage with a markedly higher precision when compared with intravascular ultrasound, due to a microscopic resolution (axial ∼10–20 µm), and at a substantially increased speed of image acquisition when compared with first-generation time-domain OCT. However, a histological validation of coronary OFDI for the evaluation of stent strut coverage in vivo is urgently needed. Hence, the present study was designed to evaluate the capacity of coronary OFDI by electron (SEM) and light microscopy (LM) analysis to detect and evaluate stent strut coverage in a porcine model.
Methods and results
Twenty stents were implanted into 10 pigs and coronary OFDI was performed after 1, 3, 10, 14, and 28 days. Neointimal thickness as detected by OFDI correlated closely with neointimal thickness as measured by LM (r = 0.90, P < 0.01). The comparison of stent strut coverage as detected by OFDI and SEM analysis revealed an excellent agreement (r = 0.96, P < 0.01). In particular, stents completely covered by OFDI analysis were also completely covered by SEM analysis. All incompletely covered stents by OFDI were also incompletely covered by SEM. Analyses of fibrin-covered stent struts suggested that these may rarely be detected as uncovered stent struts by OFDI. Importantly, optical density measurements revealed a significant difference between fibrin- and neointima-covered coronary stent struts [0.395 (0.35–0.43) vs. 0.53 (0.47–0.57); P < 0.001], suggesting that differences in optical density provide information on the type of stent strut coverage. The sensitivity and specificity for detection of fibrin vs. neointimal coverage was evaluated using receiver-operating characteristic analysis.
The present study demonstrates that OFDI is a highly promising tool for accurate evaluation of coronary stent strut coverage, as supported by a high agreement between OFDI and light and electron microscopic analysis. Furthermore, our data indicate that optical density measurements can provide additional information with respect to the type of stent strut coverage, i.e. fibrin vs. neointimal coverage. Therefore, coronary OFDI analysis will provide important information on the biocompatibility of coronary stents.
PMCID: PMC2903715  PMID: 20525979
Optical frequency domain imaging; Stent strut coverage; Histological validation
8.  Tissue engineering of heart valves using decellularized xenogeneic or polymeric starter matrices 
Heart valve replacement represents the most common surgical therapy for end-stage valvular heart diseases. A major drawback that all contemporary heart valve replacements have in common is the lack of growth, repair and remodelling capability. In order to overcome these limitations, the emerging new field of tissue engineering is focusing on the in vitro generation of functional, living heart valve replacements. The basic approach uses starter matrices either of decellularized xenogeneic or polymeric materials configured in the shape of the heart valve and subsequent cell seeding. This manuscript will give a detailed overview of these two concepts without giving favour to one or the other. The concluding discussion will focus on current limitations and studies as well as future challenges prior to safe clinical application.
PMCID: PMC2440411  PMID: 17588875
tissue engineering; heart valves; heart valve prosthesis; decellularized xenogeneic matrix; biomaterials

Results 1-8 (8)