Stem Cell Work Offers Insight Into Heart's Origins

Cardiac progenitors reveal factors involved in the onset of human cardiac development

FRIDAY, April 25 (HealthDay News) -- Cardiovascular progenitors that show cardiac, endothelial and vascular smooth muscle potential during in vitro and in vivo experiments shed light on the earliest stages of human cardiac development, according to research published in the April 24 issue of Nature.

Lei Yang of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York and colleagues describe their process of encouraging the differentiation of human embryonic stem cells to the cardiac lineage. While analyzing embryoid bodies for expression of KDR and C-KIT, they detected at six days of differentiation three distinct populations, one of which -- KDRlow/C-KITneg -- contained cardiac progenitors.

When cultured as adherent monolayers, these cells differentiated to produce populations containing more than 50 percent contracting cardiomyocytes -- often leading to sheets of cells contracting in unison. When plated in methylcellulose cultures, KDRlow/C-KITneg-derived cells produced colonies containing cardiac, endothelial and vascular smooth muscle lineages. The researchers' findings also suggest that such colonies are clones derived from a cardiovascular colony-forming cell.

"The identification of the KDRlow/C-KITneg population that contains cardiovascular progenitors provides a unique opportunity to investigate the mechanisms that regulate the onset of human cardiac development as well as those that control their specification to the cardiac and vascular lineages. Access to this population also provides an enriched source of progenitors for engineering cardiovascular tissue in vitro and for transplantation to large animal models that may accurately reflect human cardiac function," the authors conclude.

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