Gold nanorod-incorporated gelatin-based conductive hydrogels for engineering cardiac tissue constructs

Ali Navaei, Harpinder Saini, Wayne Christenson, Ryan Tanner Sullivan, Robert Ros, Mehdi Nikkhah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

257 Scopus citations


The development of advanced biomaterials is a crucial step to enhance the efficacy of tissue engineering strategies for treatment of myocardial infarction. Specific characteristics of biomaterials including electrical conductivity, mechanical robustness and structural integrity need to be further enhanced to promote the functionalities of cardiac cells. In this work, we fabricated UV-crosslinkable gold nanorod (GNR)-incorporated gelatin methacrylate (GelMA) hybrid hydrogels with enhanced material and biological properties for cardiac tissue engineering. Embedded GNRs promoted electrical conductivity and mechanical stiffness of the hydrogel matrix. Cardiomyocytes seeded on GelMA-GNR hybrid hydrogels exhibited excellent cell retention, viability, and metabolic activity. The increased cell adhesion resulted in abundance of locally organized F-actin fibers, leading to the formation of an integrated tissue layer on the GNR-embedded hydrogels. Immunostained images of integrin β-1 confirmed improved cell-matrix interaction on the hybrid hydrogels. Notably, homogeneous distribution of cardiac specific markers (sarcomeric α-actinin and connexin 43), were observed on GelMA-GNR hydrogels as a function of GNRs concentration. Furthermore, the GelMA-GNR hybrids supported synchronous tissue-level beating of cardiomyocytes. Similar observations were also noted by, calcium transient assay that demonstrated the rhythmic contraction of the cardiomyocytes on GelMA-GNR hydrogels as compared to pure GelMA. Thus, the findings of this study clearly demonstrated that functional cardiac patches with superior electrical and mechanical properties can be developed using nanoengineered GelMA-GNR hybrid hydrogels. Statement of Significance In this work, we developed gold nanorod (GNR) incorporated gelatin-based hydrogels with suitable electrical conductivity and mechanical stiffness for engineering functional cardiac tissue constructs (e.g. cardiac patches). The synthesized conductive hybrid hydrogels properly accommodated cardiac cells and subsequently resulted in excellent cell retention, spreading, homogeneous distribution of cardiac specific markers, cell-cell coupling as well as robust synchronized (tissue-level) beating behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)133-146
Number of pages14
JournalActa Biomaterialia
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016


  • Calcium puffs
  • Cardiac patches
  • Conductive hydrogels
  • Gelatin methacrylate
  • Myocardial infarction
  • Synchronous beating

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biomaterials
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Molecular Biology


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