Human cardiac regeneration – new cells in old hearts revisited

Zijun Ge, Sean Lal



Trials are underway to explore the use of cardiac stem cells as a source of cardiomyocytes, but a simpler approach may be to induce the heart’s intrinsic capacity to regenerate as a means to reverse heart failure in patients.

Key Points

  • The human heart is no longer regarded as an aplastic organ; there are low levels of cardiomyocyte turnover throughout life.
  • Human trials with cardiac stem cells have largely been disappointing and are yet to show engraftment.
  • Some of the perceived improvements in cardiac function with stem cell infusions may be due to stimulation of existing cardiomyocytes to re-enter the cell cycle and divide.
  • The key to one day reversing heart failure in patients will rely on the translation of animal models to human cardiac regeneration. 

    Picture credit: © pabloz_K/