PLoS One. 2022 Nov 10;17(11):e0277561. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0277561. eCollection 2022.
Acute myocardial infarction (AMI) results in weakening of the heart muscle and an increased risk for chronic heart failure. Therapeutic stem cells have been shown to reduce inflammatory signaling and scar tissue expansion, despite most of these studies being limited by poor retention of cells. Gelatin methacrylate (GelMA) coatings have been shown to increase the retention of these therapeutic cells near the infarct. In this work, we evaluate two different potential binding partners for GelMA-coated bone marrow cells (BMCs) and myocardial tissue: the extracellular matrix (ECM) and interstitial non-cardiomyocytes. While cells containing β1 integrins mediate cell-ECM adhesion in vivo, these cells do not promote binding to our collagen-degraded, GelMA coating. Specifically, microscopic imagining shows that even with high integrin expression, GelMA-coated BMCs do not bind to cells within the myocardium. Alternatively, BMC incubation with decellularized heart tissue results in higher adhesion of coated cells versus uncoated cells supporting our GelMA-ECM binding mode. To further evaluate the ECM binding mode, cells were incubated on slides modified with one of three different major heart ECM components: collagen, laminin, or fibronectin. While all three components promoted higher adhesion than unmodified glass, collagen-coated slides resulted in a significantly higher adhesion of GelMA-coated BMCs over laminin and fibronectin. Incubation with unmodified BMCs confirmed that without a GelMA coating minimal adhesion of BMCs occurred. We conclude that GelMA cellular coatings significantly increase the binding of cells to collagen within the ECM. Our results provide progress towards a biocompatible and easily translatable method to enhance the retention of transplanted cells in human studies.