Severe heart failure is associated with damage to the myocardium that is irreversible with current medical therapies. Recent experimental and clinical studies, however, have opened the possibility of solving many of the associated problems, making this an exciting and tangible goal. There are many potential cell sources for regenerative cardiac medicine, including bone marrow stem cells, endothelial progenitor cells, skeletal myocytes, adult cardiac stem cells, and embryonic stem (ES) cells. Although ES cells are highly proliferative and suitable for mass production, they are not autologous, and an efficient protocol is yet to be established to ensure selective cardiomyocyte induction. Recent studies have successfully established inducible pluripotent stem (iPS) cells from mouse and human fibroblasts by the gene transfer of 4 transcription factors that are strongly expressed in ES cells: Oct3/4, Sox2, Klf4 and c-Myc. iPS cells can differentiate into all 3 germ layer-derived cells and are syngeneic, indicating that they can become an ideal cell source for regenerative medicine. Despite these successes, the accumulating evidence from fields as diverse as developmental biology, stem cell biology and tissue engineering must be integrated to achieve the full potential of cardiac regenerative medicine.
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