Automated, Non-Invasive Characterization of Stem Cell-Derived Cardiomyocytes from Phase-Contrast Microscopy
Stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes hold tremendous potential for drug development and safety testing related to cardiovascular health. The characterization of cardiomyocytes is most commonly performed using electrophysiological systems, which are expensive, laborious to use, and may induce undesirable cellular response. Here, we present a new method for non-invasive characterization of cardiomyocytes using video microscopy and image analysis. We describe an automated pipeline that consists of segmentation of beating regions, robust beating signal calculation, signal quantification and modeling, and hierarchical clustering. Unlike previous imaging-based methods, our approach enables clinical applications by capturing beating patterns and arrhythmias across healthy and diseased cells with varied densities. We demonstrate the strengths of our algorithm by characterizing the effects of two commercial drugs known to modulate beating frequency and irregularity. Our results provide, to our knowledge, the first clinically-relevant demonstration of a fully-automated and non-invasive imaging-based beating assay for characterization of stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes.
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