In vitro models have proven themselves to be powerful allies with in vivo models for the dissection of the molecular mechanisms of cardiovascular development. The purpose of this manuscript is to review the advances that have enabled the creation of a new generation of in vitro models. These advances include the advent of new biomaterials and cell scaffolds that have provided the opportunity to design niches where developmental processes can occur under controlled, in vitro conditions. The engineering of biomaterials, along with new imaging capabilities, are being applied to important developmental questions. These interdisciplinary approaches promise to accelerate the identification of the molecular processes that regulate the cell-cell and cell-extracellular matrix (ECM) interactions that occur during the development of cardiac tissues. These new models not only offer the opportunity to test molecular mechanisms but also provide morphogenetic assays where the development of functional cardiovascular tissues can be achieved. The advent of these technologies is far reaching: from the ability to engineer functional cardiovascular tissues to the rational implantation of cell therapies for cardiovascular disease.
Keywords: Cardiac development, tissue engineering, in vitro models
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