• embryonic stem cell;
  • somatic stem cell;
  • cardiac progenitor cell;
  • cardiomyocyte differentiation


After myocardial infarction, injured cardiomyocytes are replaced by fibrotic tissue promoting the development of heart failure. Cell transplantation has emerged as a potential therapy and stem cells may be an important and powerful cellular source. Embryonic stem cells can differentiate into true cardiomyocytes, making them in principle an unlimited source of transplantable cells for cardiac repair, although immunological and ethical constraints exist. Somatic stem cells are an attractive option to explore for transplantation as they are autologous, but their differentiation potential is more restricted than embryonic stem cells. Currently, the major sources of somatic cells used for basic research and in clinical trials originate from the bone marrow. The differentiation capacity of different populations of bone marrow-derived stem cells into cardiomyocytes has been studied intensively. The results are rather confusing and difficult to compare, since different isolation and identification methods have been used to determine the cell population studied. To date, only mesenchymal stem cells seem to form cardiomyocytes, and only a small percentage of this population will do so in vitro or in vivo. A newly identified cell population isolated from cardiac tissue, called cardiac progenitor cells, holds great potential for cardiac regeneration. Here we discuss the potential of the different cell populations and their usefulness in stem cell based therapy to repair the damaged heart.