Young at Heart

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Science  09 Dec 2011:
Vol. 334, Issue 6061, pp. 1324
DOI: 10.1126/science.334.6061.1324-b
CREDIT: KARA ET AL., CIRC. RES. 10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.111.249037 (2011)

Cell-mediated repair of heart damage is one of the most exciting areas of cardiovascular research but is also one of the most challenging and controversial. One key point of disagreement is which cell type is optimal for such therapy. Among the list of candidates being actively explored are resident cardiac stem cells, embryonic stem cells, induced pluripotent stem cells, and bone marrow–derived cells.

A new candidate cell has emerged from a study of peripartum cardiomyopathy, a form of heart failure that affects a small percentage of pregnant women and is associated with an unusually high rate of spontaneous recovery. Kara et al. speculated that fetal or placental cells might contribute to this high recovery rate. Consistent with their hypothesis, they found that when the heart of a pregnant mouse is subjected to acute injury, fetal cells migrate through the blood to the injury site in the maternal heart, where they differentiate into three distinct cell types required for heart repair: endothelial cells, smooth muscle cells, and cardiomyocytes. About 40% of these fetal cells express a marker gene (Cdx2) associated with trophoblast stem cells, which form the placenta. This raises the intriguing possibility that readily accessible cells in the placenta might be capable of heart repair.

Circ. Res. 10.1161/circresaha.111.249037 (2011).

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