Progenitor cell therapy for heart disease

Exp Cell Res. 2009 Nov 1;315(18):3077-85. doi: 10.1016/j.yexcr.2009.09.006. Epub 2009 Sep 10.


Many cell types are currently being studied as potential sources of cardiomyocytes for cell transplantation therapy to repair and regenerate damaged myocardium. The question remains as to which progenitor cell represents the best candidate. Bone marrow-derived cells and endothelial progenitor cells have been tested in clinical studies. These cells are safe, but their cardiogenic potential is controversial. The functional benefits observed are probably due to enhanced angiogenesis, reduced ventricular remodeling, or to cytokine-mediated effects that promote the survival of endogenous cells. Human embryonic stem cells represent an unlimited source of cardiomyocytes due to their great differentiation potential, but each step of differentiation must be tightly controlled due to the high risk of teratoma formation. These cells, however, confront ethical barriers and there is a risk of graft rejection. These last two problems can be avoided by using induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS), which can be autologously derived, but the high risk of teratoma formation remains. Cardiac progenitor cells have the advantage of being cardiac committed, but important questions remain unanswered, such as what is the best marker to identify and isolate these cells? To date the different markers used to identify adult cardiac progenitor cells also recognize progenitor cells that are outside the heart. Thus, it cannot be determined whether the cardiac progenitor cells identified in the adult heart represent resident cells present since fetal life or extracardiac cells that colonized the heart after cardiac injury. Developmental studies have identified markers of multipotent progenitors, but it is unknown whether these markers are specific for adult progenitors when expressed in the adult myocardium. Cardiac regeneration is dependent on the stability of the cells transplanted into the host myocardium and on the electromechanical coupling with the endogenous cells. Finally, the promotion of endogenous regenerative processes by mobilizing endogenous progenitors represents a complementary approach to cell transplantation therapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Embryonic Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Embryonic Stem Cells / transplantation*
  • Heart Diseases / immunology
  • Heart Diseases / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Myoblasts / transplantation*
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / cytology
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / physiology*
  • Pluripotent Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Pluripotent Stem Cells / transplantation*
  • Regeneration / physiology


  • Biomarkers