Stem Cells from In- or Outside of the Heart: Isolation, Characterization, and Potential for Myocardial Tissue Regeneration
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Heart failure emerges with a net loss of viable cardiomyocytes, and there is no current therapy to reverse this process to improve long-term cardiac function. Due to a change in viewpoint, that the human heart cannot be considered a terminally differentiated postmitotic organ, incapable of myocardial regeneration, a belief in a new approach for therapy evolved: regenerating the heart. Finding stem cells in the heart capable of replenishing lost cardiomyocytes became a holy grail for research. Heart stem cells were isolated and characterized, originally derived from in- or outside of the heart. Since the endogenous repair potential of the heart following injury is not sufficient, cellular therapy has been performed after myocardial infarction in clinical settings. Clinical therapies performed with autologous skeletal myoblasts, cardiomyocytes, and bone marrow, as well as the animal studies, showed improvements in cardiac function, although the clinical effects are still limited. These findings have stimulated optimism that progression of heart failure might be prevented or even reversed with cell-based therapy. For future research, it will be a challenge to isolate the most potent therapeutic cell with an intrinsic capacity to stimulate regeneration in the heart, by direct participation or by producing paracrine factors.