Role of microRNAs in stem/progenitor cells and cardiovascular repair

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MicroRNAs (miRNAs), small non-coding RNAs, play a critical role in differentiation and self-renewal of pluripotent stem cells, as well as in differentiation of cardiovascular lineage cells. Several miRNAs have been demonstrated to repress stemness factors such as Oct4, Nanog, Sox2 and Klf4 in embryonic stem cells, thereby promoting embryonic stem cell differentiation. Furthermore, targeting of different miRNAs promotes reprogramming towards induced pluripotent stem cells. MicroRNAs are critical for vascular smooth muscle cell differentiation and phenotype regulation, and miR-143 and miR-145 play a particularly important role in this respect. Notably, these miRNAs are down-regulated in several cardiovascular disease states, such as in atherosclerotic lesions and vascular neointima formation. MicroRNAs are critical regulators of endothelial cell differentiation and ischaemia-induced neovascularization. miR-126 is important for vascular integrity, endothelial cell proliferation and neovascularization. miR-1 and miR-133 are highly expressed in cardiomyocytes and their precursors and regulate cardiomyogenesis. In addition, miR-499 promotes differentiation of cardiomyocyte progenitor cells. Notably, miRNA expression is altered in cardiovascular disease states, and recent studies suggest that dysregulated miRNAs may limit cardiovascular repair responses. Dysregulation of miRNAs may lead to an altered function and differentiation of cardiovascular progenitor cells, which is also likely to represent a limitation of autologous cell-based treatment approaches in these patients. These findings suggest that targeting of specific miRNAs may represent an interesting novel opportunity to impact on endogenous cardiovascular repair responses, including effects on stem/progenitor cell differentiation and functions. This approach may also serve to optimize cell-based treatment approaches in patients with cardiovascular disease.

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