The hearts of lower vertebrates such as fish and salamanders display scarless regeneration following injury, although this feature is lost in adult mammals. The remarkable capacity of the neonatal mammalian heart to regenerate suggests that the underlying machinery required for the regenerative process is evolutionarily retained. Recent studies highlight the epicardial covering of the heart as an important source of the signalling factors required for the repair process. The developing epicardium is also a major source of cardiac fibroblasts, smooth muscle, endothelial cells and stem cells. Here, we examine animal models that are capable of scarless regeneration, the role of the epicardium as a source of cells, signalling mechanisms implicated in the regenerative process and how these mechanisms influence cardiomyocyte proliferation. We also discuss recent advances in cardiac stem cell research and potential therapeutic targets arising from these studies.
Keywords: cardiac stem cells; epicardium; regeneration.
© 2015 The Authors.