Human heart failure: Is cell therapy a valid option?


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Abstract

Graphical abstractThe concept of the heart as a terminally differentiated organ incapable of replacing damaged myocytes has been at the center of cardiovascular research and therapeutic development for the past 50 years. The progressive decline in myocyte number with aging and the formation of scarred tissue following myocardial infarction have been interpreted as irrefutable proofs of the post-mitotic characteristics of the adult heart. However, emerging evidence supports a more dynamic view of the myocardium in which cell death and cell restoration are vital components of the remodeling process that governs organ homeostasis, aging and disease. The identification of dividing myocytes throughout the life span of the organisms and the recognition that undifferentiated primitive cells regulate myocyte turnover and tissue regeneration indicate that the heart is a self-renewing organ controlled by a compartment of resident stem cells. Moreover, exogenous progenitors of bone marrow origin transdifferentiate and acquire the cardiomyocyte and vascular lineages. This new reality constitutes the foundation of the numerous cell-based clinical trials that have been conducted in the last decade for the treatment of ischemic and non-ischemic cardiomyopathies.

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