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Cell Mol Life Sci. 2007 Mar;64(6):692-703.

Epicardium-derived cells in cardiogenesis and cardiac regeneration.

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Department of Anatomy and Embryology, Leiden University Medical Center, Einthovenweg 20, 2300 RC Leiden, The Netherlands.


During cardiogenesis, the epicardium grows from the proepicardial organ to form the outermost layer of the early heart. Part of the epicardium undergoes epithelial-mesenchymal transformation, and migrates into the myocardium. These epicardium-derived cells differentiate into interstitial fibroblasts, coronary smooth muscle cells, and perivascular fibroblasts. Moreover, epicardium-derived cells are important regulators of formation of the compact myocardium, the coronary vasculature, and the Purkinje fiber network, thus being essential for proper cardiac development. The fibrous structures of the heart such as the fibrous heart skeleton and the semilunar and atrioventricular valves also depend on a contribution of these cells during development. We hypothesise that the essential properties of epicardium-derived cells can be recapitulated in adult diseased myocardium. These cells can therefore be considered as a novel source of adult stem cells useful in clinical cardiac regeneration therapy.

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