• epicardium;
  • epithelial to mesenchymal transition;
  • heart regeneration;
  • reprogramming;
  • stem cells


Cells can transit between a range of stable epithelial and mesenchymal states and this has allowed the evolution of complex body forms. Epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) and its reverse, mesenchymal to epithelial transition (MET), occur sequentially in development and organogenesis. EMT often accompanies transitions between stem-like cells and their more differentiated progeny, as occurs at gastrulation, although the relevance of this had not been clarified. New findings from the cancer and cell reprogramming fields suggest that EMT and MET can act as essential portals to stem cell character. Here, we review these findings in the broader context of EMT and MET with emphasis on stem cell biology. Using the heart as an example, we also explore the potential role of EMT/MET in organ regeneration. Understanding EMT and MET at a network level will give us new tools to probe stem cell character and enhance tissue repair.