Evidence for cardiomyocyte renewal in humans

Science. 2009 Apr 3;324(5923):98-102. doi: 10.1126/science.1164680.


It has been difficult to establish whether we are limited to the heart muscle cells we are born with or if cardiomyocytes are generated also later in life. We have taken advantage of the integration of carbon-14, generated by nuclear bomb tests during the Cold War, into DNA to establish the age of cardiomyocytes in humans. We report that cardiomyocytes renew, with a gradual decrease from 1% turning over annually at the age of 25 to 0.45% at the age of 75. Fewer than 50% of cardiomyocytes are exchanged during a normal life span. The capacity to generate cardiomyocytes in the adult human heart suggests that it may be rational to work toward the development of therapeutic strategies aimed at stimulating this process in cardiac pathologies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging
  • Carbon Radioisotopes / analysis
  • Cell Count
  • Cell Nucleus / chemistry
  • Cell Nucleus Division
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cell Separation
  • DNA / biosynthesis*
  • Echocardiography, Doppler, Color
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Cardiovascular
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / cytology*
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / metabolism
  • Nuclear Weapons
  • Polyploidy
  • Radiometric Dating
  • Stem Cells / cytology
  • Troponin I / analysis
  • Troponin T / analysis


  • Carbon Radioisotopes
  • Troponin I
  • Troponin T
  • DNA