Functional screening in human cardiac organoids reveals a metabolic mechanism for cardiomyocyte cell cycle arrest

Richard J. Mills, Drew M. Titmarsh, Xaver Koenig, Benjamin L. Parker, James G. Ryall, Gregory A. Quaife-Ryan, Holly K. Voges, Mark P. Hodson, Charles Ferguson, Lauren Drowley, Alleyn T. Plowright, Elise J. Needham, Qing Dong Wang, Paul Gregorevic, Mei Xin, Walter G. Thomas, Robert G. Parton, Lars K. Nielsen, Bradley S. Launikonis, David E. JamesDavid A. Elliott, Enzo R. Porrello, James E. Hudson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

318 Scopus citations


The mammalian heart undergoes maturation during postnatal life to meet the increased functional requirements of an adult. However, the key drivers of this process remain poorly defined. We are currently unable to recapitulate postnatal maturation in human pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes (hPSC-CMs), limiting their potential as a model system to discover regenerative therapeutics. Here, we provide a summary of our studies, where we developed a 96-well device for functional screening in human pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiac organoids (hCOs). Through interrogation of >10,000 organoids, we systematically optimize parameters, including extracellular matrix (ECM), metabolic substrate, and growth factor conditions, that enhance cardiac tissue viability, function, and maturation. Under optimized maturation conditions, functional and molecular characterization revealed that a switch to fatty acid metabolism was a central driver of cardiac maturation. Under these conditions, hPSC-CMs were refractory to mitogenic stimuli, and we found that key proliferation pathways including β-catenin and Yes-associated protein 1 (YAP1) were repressed. This proliferative barrier imposed by fatty acid metabolism in hCOs could be rescued by simultaneous activation of both β-catenin and YAP1 using genetic approaches or a small molecule activating both pathways. These studies highlight that human organoids coupled with higher-throughput screening platforms have the potential to rapidly expand our knowledge of human biology and potentially unlock therapeutic strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E8372-E8381
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number40
StatePublished - Oct 3 2017


  • Heart development
  • Metabolism
  • Pluripotent stem cells
  • Regeneration
  • Tissue engineering

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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