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: Death rates from lung cancer will overtake those for breast cancer in 2015 among EU women

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Integrating renewables to create smart grids

Jan 12, 2015

Imagine for a moment the idea of powering a neighborhood, a city or even an entire country with solar or wind energy alone. This scenario requires nearly flawless control over what happens in our power grids. ...

Devising a way to count proteins as they group

Dec 22, 2014

A new study from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and University of California Berkeley researchers reports on an innovative theoretical methodology to solve "the counting problem," which is key to understanding ...

Recommended for you

Generic form of nexium approved

6 hours ago

(HealthDay)—The first generic version of the heartburn drug Nexium (esomeprazole) has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

User comments : 0

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.