A number of techniques have been developed to monitor contractile function in isolated cardiac myocytes. While invaluable observations have been gained from these methodologies in understanding the contractile processes of the heart, they are invariably limited by their in vitro conditions. The present challenge is to develop innovative assays to mimic the in vivo milieu so as to allow a more physiological assessment of cardiac myocyte contractile forces. Here we demonstrate the use of a silicone elastomer, poly(dimethylsiloxane) (PDMS), to simultaneously orient adult cardiac myocytes in primary culture and measure the cellular forces in a three-dimensional substrate. The realignment of adult cardiac myocytes in long-term culture (7 days) was achieved due to directional reassembly of the myofibrils along the parallel polymeric sidewalls. The cellular mechanical forces were recorded in situ by observing the deformation of the micropillars embedded in the substrate. By coupling the cellular mechanical force measurements with on-chip cell orientation, this novel assay is expected to provide a means of a more physiological assessment of single cardiac myocyte contractile function and may facilitate the future development of in vitro assembled functional cardiac tissue.
(c) 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.