Stem Cells as a Source of Regenerative Cardiomyocytes

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The realization of regenerative cardiac medicine depends on the availability of cardiomyocytes in sufficient numbers for transplantation of cardiac tissue and the accompanying blood vessels. Embryonic stem (ES) cells, bone marrow (BM) stem cells, and tissue-derived stem cells are all potential cell sources. Although ES cells are highly proliferative and suitable for mass production, an efficient protocol is yet to be established to ensure selective cardiomyocyte induction using these cells. Recent advances in developmental biology have clarified the involvement of critical factors in cardiomyocyte differentiation, including bone morphogenic protein and Wnt signaling proteins, and such factors have the potential to improve the efficiency of stem cell induction. Initial studies of the intracoronary administration of BM mononuclear cells after myocardial infarction has yielded promising results; however, intensive investigation of the underlying molecular mechanisms at play as well as double-blinded clinical trials will be necessary to establish the extent of both migration of the BM stem cells into the damaged cardiac tissue and their differentiation into cardiomyocytes. Several types of cardiac tissue stem cells have also been reported, but an accurate and extensive comparison of these cells with regard to their characteristics and multipotency remains to be done. An integrative study involving developmental biology, stem cell biology, and tissue engineering is required to achieve the full potential of cardiac regeneration.

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