As these authors note, progress towards heart regeneration via stem cell therapies is ongoing. Numerous important steps forward in the control and manipulation of heart cells and stem cells have been demonstrated in the laboratory in recent years:
Damage in cardiac tissues from ischemia or other pathological conditions leads to heart failure; and cell loss or dysfunction in pacemaker tissues due to congenital heart defects, aging, and acquired diseases can cause severe arrhythmias. The promise of successful therapies with stem cells to treat these conditions has remained elusive to the scientific community. However, recent advances in this field have opened new opportunities for regenerative cardiac therapy.
Transplantation of cardiomyocytes derived from human pluripotent stem cells has the potential to alleviate heart disease. Since the initial derivation of human embryonic stem cells, significant progress has been made in the generation and characterization of enriched cardiomyocytes and the demonstration of the ability of these cardiomyocytes to survive, integrate, and function in animal models.
The scope of therapeutic potential from pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes has been further expanded with the invention of induced pluripotent stem cells, which can be induced to generate functional cardiomyocytes for regenerative cardiac therapy in a patient specific manner. The reprogramming technology has also inspired the recent discovery of direct conversion of fibroblasts into cardiomyocyte-like cells, which may allow endogenous cardiac repair. Regenerative cardiac therapy with human pluripotent stem cells is now moving closer to clinic testing.