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Keywords:

  • cardiac stem cells;
  • cardiomyocytes progenitors;
  • telocytes;
  • cardiac stem cell niche;
  • cardiac renewal;
  • regenerative medicine;
  • epicardium

Abstract

A highly heterogeneous population of stem and progenitor cells has been described by light immunohistochemistry in the mammalian adult heart, but the ultrastructural identity of cardiac stem cells remains unknown. Using electron microscopy, we demonstrate the presence of cells with stem features in the adult mouse heart. These putative cardiac stem cells are small (6–10 μm), round cells, with an irregular shaped nucleus, large nucleolus, few endoplasmic reticulum cisternae and mitochondria, but numerous ribosomes. Stem cells located in the epicardial stem cell niche undergo mitosis and apoptosis. Cells with intermediate features between stem cells and cardiomyocyte progenitors have also been seen. Moreover, electron microscopy showed that cardiomyocyte progenitors were added to the peripheral working cardiomyocytes. Telocytes make a supportive interstitial network for stem cells and progenitors in the stem cell niche. This study enhances the hypothesis of a unique type of cardiac stem cell and progenitors in different stages of differentiation. In our opinion, stem cells, cardiomyocyte progenitors and telocytes sustain a continuous cardiac renewal process in the adult mammalian heart.