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J Surg Res. 1996 May;62(2):233-42.

A population of cells isolated from rat heart capable of differentiating into several mesodermal phenotypes.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, Mercer University School of Medicine, Medical Center of Central Georgia, Macon 31208, USA.


A population of stem cells has been isolated from embryonic avian and neonatal rat skeletal muscle. These cells differentiate into several mesodermal phenotypes in culture upon treatment with dexamethasone. This study reports the isolation of a similar population of stem cells from another mesodermal tissue, the heart. Hearts were excised from 3- to 5-day- old rats, minced, and treated with a collagenase-dispase solution. Single cells were collected by centrifugation, washed, and plated in dishes. The cells were grown to confluence, trypsinized, and frozen at -80 degrees C in 7.5% dimethylsulfoxide. After at least 24 hr, the cells were thawed and plated in 24-well plates and treated with media containing dexamethasone at concentrations of 10(-6)-10(-10) M for 4 weeks. Control cultures contained mononucleated cells with a stellate morphology. Treatment with dexamethasone resulted in the appearance of several mesodermal phenotypes. Bone and cartilage nodules were identified with von Kossa and Alcian blue staining respectively. Adipocytes were identified using Sudan black B stain. Smooth muscle cells were identified by an anti-smooth muscle alpha-actin antibody, and skeletal myotubes were stained with anti-myosin antibody. Large binuclear cells with obvious fibers were noted and stained with anti-desmin. These binuclear cells appeared in both the control and the dexamethasone-treated cultures and were tentatively identified as cardiomyocytes. These data strongly suggest the existence of a population of mesenchymal stem cells in neonatal rat heart.

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