Author(s): Angelini P
Stem cells are multipotent, undifferentiated cells capable of multiplication and differentiation. Preliminary experimental evidence suggests that stem cells derived from embryonic or adult tissues (especially bone marrow) may develop into myocardial cells. Some experts believe that this phenomenon occurs naturally in human beings, specifically during recovery from a myocardial infarction. Recently, stem cells have been used with the therapeutic intention of regenerating damaged tissues. Cardiac experiments, mainly with adult homologous stem cells, have proved that this therapy is safe and may improve myocardial vascularization and pump function. We review current fundamental concepts regarding the normal development of embryonic stem cells into myocardial tissue and the heart as a whole. We describe the multiple conditions that naturally enable a stem cell to become a myocardial cell and a group of stem cells to become a heart. We also discuss the challenge of translating basic cellular and molecular mechanisms into effective, clinically relevant treatment options.