RATIONALE: Amniotic membrane is known to have the ability to transdifferentiate into multiple organs and is expected to stimulate a reduced immunologic reaction. OBJECTIVE: Determine whether human amniotic membrane-derived mesenchymal cells (hAMCs) can be an ideal allograftable stem cell source for cardiac regenerative medicine. METHODS AND RESULTS: We established hAMCs. After cardiomyogenic induction in vitro, hAMCs beat spontaneously, and the calculated cardiomyogenic transdifferentiation efficiency was 33%. Transplantation of hAMCs 2 weeks after myocardial infarction improved impaired left ventricular fractional shortening measured by echocardiogram (34±2% [n=8] to 39±2% [n=11]; P<0.05) and decreased myocardial fibrosis area (18±1% [n=9] to 13±1% [n=10]; P<0.05), significantly. Furthermore hAMCs transplanted into the infarcted myocardium of Wistar rats were transdifferentiated into cardiomyocytes in situ and survived for more than 4 weeks after the transplantation without using any immunosuppressant. Immunologic tolerance was caused by the hAMC-derived HLA-G expression, lack of MHC expression of hAMCs, and activation of FOXP3-positive regulatory T cells. Administration of IL-10 or progesterone, which is known to play an important role in feto-maternal tolerance during pregnancy, markedly increased HLA-G expression in hAMCs in vitro and, surprisingly, also increased cardiomyogenic transdifferentiation efficiency in vitro and in vivo. CONCLUSIONS: Because hAMCs have a high ability to transdifferentiate into cardiomyocytes and to acquire immunologic tolerance in vivo, they can be a promising cellular source for allograftable stem cells for cardiac regenerative medicine.
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