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Basic Res Cardiol. 2013 Mar;108(2):334. doi: 10.1007/s00395-013-0334-4. Epub 2013 Feb 15.

Doxorubicin induces senescence and impairs function of human cardiac progenitor cells.

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Department of Experimental Medicine, Section of Pharmacology, Second University of Naples, Naples, Italy.


The increasing population of cancer survivors faces considerable morbidity and mortality due to late effects of the antineoplastic therapy. Cardiotoxicity is a major limiting factor of therapy with doxorubicin (DOXO), the most effective anthracycline, and is characterized by a dilated cardiomyopathy that can develop even years after treatment. Studies in animals have proposed the cardiac progenitor cells (CPCs) as the cellular target responsible for DOXO-induced cardiomyopathy but the relevance of these observations to clinical settings is unknown. In this study, the analysis of the DOXO-induced cardiomyopathic human hearts showed that the majority of human CPCs (hCPCs) was senescent. In isolated hCPCs, DOXO triggered DNA damage response leading to apoptosis early after exposure, and telomere shortening and senescence at later time interval. Functional properties of hCPCs, such as migration and differentiation, were also negatively affected. Importantly, the differentiated progeny of DOXO-treated hCPCs prematurely expressed the senescence marker p16(INK4a). In conclusion, DOXO exposure severely affects the population of hCPCs and permanently impairs their function. Premature senescence of hCPCs and their progeny can be responsible for the decline in the regenerative capacity of the heart and may represent the cellular basis of DOXO-induced cardiomyopathy in humans.

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