A three-dimensional hybrid pacemaker electrode seamlessly integrates into engineered, functional human cardiac tissue in vitro
Pacemaker systems are an essential tool for the treatment of cardiovascular diseases. However, the immune system's natural response to a foreign body results in the encapsulation of a pacemaker electrode and an impaired energy efficiency by increasing the excitation threshold. The integration of the electrode into the tissue is affected by implant properties such as size, mechanical flexibility, shape, and dimensionality. Three-dimensional, tissue-like electrode scaffolds render an alternative to currently used planar metal electrodes. Based on a modified electrospinning process and a high temperature treatment, a conductive, porous fiber scaffold was fabricated. The electrical and immunological properties of this 3D electrode were compared to 2D TiN electrodes. An increased surface of the fiber electrode compared to the planar 2D electrode, showed an enhanced electrical performance. Moreover, the migration of cells into the 3D construct was observed and a lower inflammatory response was induced. After early and late in vivo host response evaluation subcutaneously, the 3D fiber scaffold showed no adverse foreign body response. By embedding the 3D fiber scaffold in human cardiomyocytes, a tissue-electrode hybrid was generated that facilitates a high regenerative capacity and a low risk of fibrosis. This hybrid was implanted onto a spontaneously beating, tissue-engineered human cardiac patch to investigate if a seamless electronic-tissue interface is generated. The fusion of this hybrid electrode with a cardiac patch resulted in a mechanical stable and electrical excitable unit. Thereby, the feasibility of a seamless tissue-electrode interface was proven.