Date of Award

Spring 5-2023

Author's School

McKelvey School of Engineering

Author's Department

Biomedical Engineering

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Type



Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death is the United States, accounting for nearly 1 in 5 deaths. Many types of cardiovascular disease are linked to the mechanical forces placed on the heart. However, how these mechanical forces exactly affect the cellular biology of the heart is not well defined. In vitro models using cardiomyocytes derived from human induced pluripotent stem cells enable researchers to develop medium throughput systems to study cardiac mechanobiology at the cellular level. Previous models have been developed to enable the study of mechanical forces such as cardiac afterload. However, most of these models require exogenous extracellular matrix (ECM) to form cardiac tissues. A previous model was developed to simulate changes in afterload by grafting micro-heart muscles (μHM) to elastomeric substrates of discrete stiffnesses without needing to encapsulate the cells in ECM. This study aimed to combine the elastomer-grafted tissue model with a magnetorheological elastomer (MRE), materials that have been shown to be able to dynamically change stiffness. First, the mechanical properties of the MRE materials were investigated. The elastomer-grafted μHM system was then combined with a MRE substrate to dynamically control substrate stiffness and afterload induced on μHMs. Acute changes in substrate stiffness led to acute changes in the calcium dynamics and contractile forces, illustrating the system's ability to dynamically elicit changes in tissue mechanics by dynamically changing contractile resistance via substrate stiffness.


English (en)


Nathaniel Huebsch

Committee Members

Guy Genin, Michelle Oyen

Available for download on Saturday, April 18, 2026