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J Clin Exp Cardiolog. 2012 Apr 25;S9. pii: 001.

Defining Conditions for Sustaining Epiblast Pluripotence Enables Direct Induction of Clinically-Suitable Human Myocardial Grafts from Biologics-Free Human Embryonic Stem Cells.

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San Diego Regenerative Medicine Institute, San Diego, CA 92109, USA.


To date, lacking of a clinically-suitable human cardiac cell source with adequate myocardium regenerative potential has been the major setback in regenerating the damaged human myocardium. Pluripotent Human Embryonic Stem Cells (hESCs) proffer unique revenue to generate a large supply of cardiac lineage-committed cells as human myocardial grafts for cell-based therapy. Due to the prevalence of heart disease worldwide and acute shortage of donor organs or human myocardial grafts, there is intense interest in developing hESC-based therapy for heart disease and failure. However, realizing the potential of hESCs has been hindered by the inefficiency and instability of generating cardiac cells from pluripotent cells through uncontrollable multi-lineage differentiation. In addition, the need for foreign biologics for derivation, maintenance, and differentiation of hESCs may make direct use of such cells and their derivatives in patients problematic. Understanding the requirements for sustaining pluripotentce and self-renewal of hESCs will provide the foundation for de novo derivation and long-term maintenance of biologics-free hESCs under optimal yet well-defined culture conditions from which they can be efficiently directed towards clinically-relevant lineages for therapies. We previously reported the resolving of the elements of a defined culture system, serving as a platform for effectively directing pluripotent hESCs uniformly towards a cardiac lineage-specific fate by small molecule induction. In this study, we found that, under the defined culture conditions, primitive endoderm-like (PEL) cells constitutively emerged and acted through the activin-A-SMAD pathway in a paracrine fashion to sustain the epiblast pluripotence of hESCs. Such defined conditions enable the spontaneous unfolding of inherent early embryogenesis processes that, in turn, aid efficient clonal propagation and de novo derivation of stable biologics-free hESCs from blastocysts that can be directly differentiated into a large supply of clinically-suitable human myocardial grafts across the spectrum of developmental stages using small molecule induction for cardiovascular repair.

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