Source of Cardiomyocyte Progenitors Identified

June 25, 2008

A subset of cells present in the epicardium, the epithelial sheet lying over the heart, can migrate into the heart and differentiate into cardiomyocytes, which could be used someday to repair the heart, according to the results of a study published online June 22 in Nature.

WEDNESDAY, June 25 (HealthDay News) -- A subset of cells present in the epicardium, the epithelial sheet lying over the heart, can migrate into the heart and differentiate into cardiomyocytes, which could be used someday to repair the heart, according to the results of a study published online June 22 in Nature.

Bin Zhou, M.D., from Harvard Medical School in Boston, and colleagues traced the migration and fate of cells expressing the transcription factor Wt1 in the epicardium during normal heart development in mice.

The researchers found that most Wt1+ derived cells differentiated into smooth muscle cells, with a minority becoming endothelial cells. Some also became cardiomyocytes, comprising 7 percent to 18 percent of cardiomyocytes in the heart, with cardiomyocyte markers and function. Further experiments showed that Wt1+ proepicardial cells likely arose from multipotent cardiac progenitor cells.

"These results identify Wt1+ epicardial cells as previously unrecognized cardiomyocyte progenitors, and lay the foundation for future efforts to harness the cardiogenic potential of these progenitors for cardiac regeneration and repair," Zhou and colleagues conclude.

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