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Int J Cardiol. 2010 Nov 19;145(2):e44-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ijcard.2008.12.137. Epub 2009 Jan 26.

Epicardial cells are missing from the surface of hearts with ischemic cardiomyopathy: a useful clue about the self-renewal potential of the adult human heart?


The search for ideal cell candidate for heart regeneration, as well as for putative cardiac stem cell responsible for cardiac tissue homeostasis, is occupying both basic scientists and clinicians. Growing number of studies and publications indicate epicardium-derived cells as cardiac stem cells. While it is beyond doubt that these cells contribute to normal development of the heart during organogenesis, it remains an open question whether mesothelial epicardial cells can preserve their embryonic potential and if they can undergo epithelial-mesenchymal transition, giving origin to cardiac cell lineages, also in the adult human heart. Recent observations in vitro confirm this hypothesis, but direct evidence from the adult human heart is difficult to obtain. We report the absence of epicardial cells from the surface of adult human hearts with ischemic cardiomyopathy and the accumulation of cells with epithelial and mesenchymal markers in the subepicardium. We argue that these findings may correspond to the activation of the epithelial-mesenchymal transition in the chronic pathological conditions requiring cardiac cell regeneration, followed by epicardial cell pool exhaustion. Hence, observation of the epicardium of patients with cardiovascular disease, although not offering immediate diagnostic advantage, could provide some urging answers concerning the self-renewal potential of the adult heart.

Copyright © 2008 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.

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