• embryonic stem cells;
  • mouse;
  • human;
  • cardiomyocytes;
  • differentiation


Embryonic stem (ES) cell lines, derived from the inner cell mass (ICM) of blastocyst-stage embryos, are pluripotent and have a virtually unlimited capacity for self-renewal and differentiation into all cell types of an embryoproper. Both human and mouse ES cell lines are the subject of intensive investigation for potential applications in developmental biology and medicine. ES cells from both sources differentiate in vitro into cells of ecto-, endoand meso-dermal lineages, and robust cardiomyogenic differentiation is readily observed in spontaneously differentiating ES cells when cultured under appropriate conditions. Molecular, cellular and physiologic analyses demonstrate that ES cell-derived cardiomyocytes are functionally viable and that these cell derivatives exhibit characteristics typical of heart cells in early stages of cardiac development. Because terminal heart failure is characterized by a significant loss of cardiomyocytes, the use of human ES cell-derived progeny represents one possible source for cell transplantation therapies. With these issues in mind, this review will focus on the differentiation of pluripotent embryonic stem cells into cardiomyocytes as a developmental model, and the possible use of ES cell-derived cardiomyocytes as source of donor cells.