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J Nucl Cardiol. 2003 Jul-Aug;10(4):403-12.

Stem cells and cardiovascular disease.

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Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, Boyer Center for Molecular Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, 295 Congress Avenue, New Haven, CT 06520, USA.


Several recent discoveries have shifted the paradigm that there is no potential for myocardial regeneration and have fueled enthusiasm for a new frontier in the treatment of cardiovascular disease-stem cells. Fundamental to this emerging field is the cumulative evidence that adult bone marrow stem cells can differentiate into a wide variety of cell types, including cardiac myocytes and endothelial cells. This phenomenon has been termed stem cell plasticity and is the basis for the explosive recent interest in stem cell-based therapies. Directed to cardiovascular disease, stem cell therapy holds the promise of replacing lost heart muscle and enhancing cardiovascular revascularization. Early evidence of the feasibility of stem cell therapy for cardiovascular disease came from a series of animal experiments demonstrating that adult stem cells could become cardiac muscle cells (myogenesis) and participate in the formation of new blood vessels (angiogenesis and vasculogenesis) in the heart after myocardial infarction. These findings have been rapidly translated to ongoing human trials, but many questions remain. This review focuses on the use of adult bone marrow-derived stem cells for the treatment of ischemic cardiovascular disease and will contrast how far we have come in a short time with how far we still need to go before stem cell therapy becomes routine in cardiovascular medicine.

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