Cardiac stem cells: biology and clinical applications.

Posted: November 7, 2016 at 3:48 pm


Heart disease is the primary cause of death in the industrialized world. Cardiac failure is dictated by an uncompensated reduction in the number of viable and fully functional cardiomyocytes. While current pharmacological therapies alleviate the symptoms associated with cardiac deterioration, heart transplantation remains the only therapy for advanced heart failure. Therefore, there is a pressing need for novel therapeutic modalities. Cell-based therapies involving cardiac stem cells (CSCs) constitute a promising emerging approach for the replenishment of the lost tissue and the restoration of cardiac contractility.

CSCs reside in the adult heart and govern myocardial homeostasis and repair after injury by producing new cardiomyocytes and vascular structures. In the last decade, different classes of immature cells expressing distinct stem cell markers have been identified and characterized in terms of their growth properties, differentiation potential, and regenerative ability. Phase I clinical trials, employing autologous CSCs in patients with ischemic cardiomyopathy, are being completed with encouraging results.

Accumulating evidence concerning the role of CSCs in heart regeneration imposes a reconsideration of the mechanisms of cardiac aging and the etiology of heart failure. Deciphering the molecular pathways that prevent activation of CSCs in their environment and understanding the processes that affect CSC survival and regenerative function with cardiac pathologies, commonly accompanied by alterations in redox conditions, are of great clinical importance.

Further investigations of CSC biology may be translated into highly effective and novel therapeutic strategies aiming at the enhancement of the endogenous healing capacity of the diseased heart.

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Cardiac stem cells: biology and clinical applications.

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