New role found for a cardiac progenitor population

May 14, 2008

In a discovery that could one day lead to an understanding of how to regenerate damaged heart tissue, researchers at the University of California, San Diego have found that parent cells involved in embryonic development of the epicardium – the cell layer surrounding the outside of the heart – give rise to three important types of cells with potential for cardiac repair.

In a study published online May 14 in advance of publication in the journal Nature, researchers led by Sylvia Evans, Ph.D., professor of pharmacology at the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and professor of medicine at UC San Diego, discovered in mice that developing embryonic cells that form the epicardium develop into cardiomyocytes, or muscle cells, as well as into connective tissue and vascular support cells of the heart.

The UCSD team generated mice which enabled lineage studies of epicardial cells, utilizing a marker for these lineages called a T-box transcription factor, Tbx18. “The surprising finding was that during the earliest stages of development, myocytes are also generated from parent cells within the embryonic epicardium,” said Evans. The Evans lab went on to demonstrate that, in the adult mouse, epicardial cells have lost their earlier embryonic ability to generate cardiomyocytes.

“Our findings raise the possibility that if we can restore the ability of adult epicardial cells in mammals to generate cardiomyocytes, it may enhance their future potential for cardiac repair following injury, such as a heart attack,” said co-first author Jody C. Martin of UCSD’s Department of Bioengineering.

While the adult mammalian heart has lost this capacity to generate new heart muscle, according to Evans, other investigators have demonstrated that zebrafish can fully regenerate their hearts following injury. This regeneration is associated with migration of Tbx 18-expressing cells to the site of injury, and the new formation of cardiomycytes.

If Tbx18-cell migration is prevented, there is no repair. The UCSD researchers’ findings suggest that one reason that zebrafish can regenerate their hearts may be that adult zebrafish epicardium somehow retains the capacity to generate cardiomyocytes.

Source: University of California - San Diego

Explore further: A Wi-Fi reflector chip to speed up wearables

Related Stories

A Wi-Fi reflector chip to speed up wearables

July 23, 2015

Whether you're tracking your steps, monitoring your health or sending photos from a smart watch, you want the battery life of your wearable device to last as long as possible. If the power necessary to transmit and receive ...

Mastering magnetic reconnection

June 17, 2015

On March 12, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) scientists launched four observational satellites into space, officially beginning the Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) Mission. The diminutive spacecraft, ...

Plant fertility—how hormones get around

May 26, 2015

Researchers at Tokyo Institute of Technology have identified a transporter protein at the heart of a number of plant processes associated with fertility and possibly aging.

Recommended for you

Innovations from the wild world of optics and photonics

August 2, 2015

Traditional computers manipulate electrons to turn our keystrokes and Google searches into meaningful actions. But as components of the computer processor shrink to only a few atoms across, those same electrons become unpredictable ...

Shedding light on millipede evolution

August 2, 2015

As an National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded entomologist, Virginia Tech's Paul Marek has to spend much of his time in the field, hunting for rare and scientifically significant species. He's provided NSF with an inside ...

Better together: graphene-nanotube hybrid switches

August 2, 2015

Graphene has been called a wonder material, capable of performing great and unusual material acrobatics. Boron nitride nanotubes are no slackers in the materials realm either, and can be engineered for physical and biological ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.