The cardiac stem cell compartment is indispensable for myocardial cell homeostasis, repair and regeneration in the adult

Bernardo Nadal-Ginard*, Georgina M. Ellison, Daniele Torella

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

82 Citations (Scopus)


Resident cardiac stem cells in embryonic, neonatal and adult mammalian heart have been identified by different membrane markers and transcription factors. However, despite a flurry of publications no consensus has been reached on the identity and actual regenerative effects of the adult cardiac stem cells. Intensive research on the adult mammalian heart's capacity for self-renewal of its muscle cell mass has led to a consensus that new cardiomyocytes (CMs) are indeed formed throughout adult mammalian life albeit at a disputed frequency. The physiological significance of this renewal, the origin of the new CMs, and the rate of adult CM turnover are still highly debated. Myocyte replacement, particularly after injury, was originally attributed to differentiation of a stem cell compartment. More recently, it has been reported that CMs are mainly replaced by the division of pre-existing post-mitotic CMs. These latter results, if confirmed, would shift the target of regenerative therapy toward boosting mature CM cell-cycle re-entry. Despite this controversy, it is documented that the adult endogenous c-kitpos cardiac stem cells (c-kitpos eCSCs) participate in adaptations to myocardial stress, and, when transplanted into the myocardium, regenerate most cardiomyocytes and microvasculature lost in an infarct. Nevertheless, the in situ myogenic potential of adult c-kitpos cardiac cells has been questioned. To revisit the regenerative potential of c-kitpos eCSCs, we have recently employed experimental protocols of severe diffuse myocardial damage in combination with several genetic murine models and cell transplantation approaches showing that eCSCs are necessary and sufficient for CM regeneration, leading to complete cellular, anatomical, and functional myocardial recovery. Here we will review the available data on adult eCSC biology and their regenerative potential placing it in the context of the different claimed mechanisms of CM replacement. These data are in agreement with and have reinforced our view that most CMs are replaced by de novo CM formation through the activation, myogenic commitment and specification of the eCSC cohort.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)615-630
Number of pages16
JournalStem Cell Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2014


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