Cardiac regeneration strategies: Staying young at heart
The human heart is continually operating as a muscular pump, contracting, on average, 80 times per minute to propel 8000 liters of blood through body tissues each day. Whereas damaged skeletal muscle has a profound capacity to regenerate, heart muscle, at least in mammals, has poor regenerative potential. This deficiency is attributable to the lack of resident cardiac stem cells, combined with roadblocks that limit adult cardiomyocytes from entering the cell cycle and completing division. Insights for regeneration have recently emerged from studies of animals with an elevated innate capacity for regeneration, the innovation of stem cell and reprogramming technologies, and a clearer understanding of the cardiomyocyte genetic program and key extrinsic signals. Methods to augment heart regeneration now have potential to counteract the high morbidity and mortality of cardiovascular disease.