Heart disease including myocardial infarction and ischemia is associated with the irreversible loss of cardiomyocytes and vasculature, both via apoptosis or necrosis. However, the native capacity for the renewal and repair of myocardial tissue is inadequate as have been current therapeutic measures to prevent left ventricular remodeling. Cell transplantation has emerged as a potentially viable therapeutic approach to directly repopulate and repair the damaged myocardium. A detailed analysis and a vision for future progress in stem cell applications, both in research and clinical cardiology are presented in this review, highlighting the use of a wide spectrum of stem/progenitor cell types including embryonic or fetal stem cells, myoblasts, and adult bone marrow stem cells. An up-to-date comparison of donor cell-types used, and evaluation of the myocardial disorders that might be most amenable to stem cell therapy are discussed. The roles that myocardial cell fusion and transdifferentiation play in stem cell transplantation, the specific shortcomings of available technologies, and recommendations for practical ways that these concerns might be overcome, are also presented.
Keywords: Stem cells, differentiation, cardiomyocytes, heart disease, myocardial infarct, myocardial ischemia
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