• Open Access

Cardiac differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells


Correspondence to: Yue MA, National Laboratory of Biomacromolecules, Institute of Biophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 15 Datun Rd. Chaoyang District, Beijing 100101, China.

Tel.: +86 10 64888818

Fax: +86 10 64855688

E-mail: yuema@ibp.ac.cn


Due to the extremely limited proliferative capacity of adult cardiomyocytes, human embryonic (pluripotent) stem cell derived cardiomyocytes (hESC-CMs) are currently almost the only reliable source of human heart cells which are suited to large-scale production. These cells have the potential for wide-scale application in drug discovery, heart disease research and cell-based heart repair. Embryonic atrial-, ventricular- and nodal-like cardiomyocytes can be obtained from differentiated human embryonic stem cells (hESCs). In recent years, several highly efficient cardiac differentiation protocols have been developed. Significant progress has also been made on understanding cardiac subtype specification, which is the key to reducing the heterogeneity of hESC-CMs, a major obstacle to the utilization of these cells in medical research and future cell-based replacement therapies. Herein we review recent progress in cardiac differentiation of hESCs and cardiac subtype specification, and discuss potential applications in drug screening and cell-based heart regeneration.