Circulation Research, vol. 91, issue 3 (2002) pp. 189-201
Embryonic stem (ES) cells have been established as permanent lines of undifferentiated pluripotent cells from early mouse embryos. ES cells provide a unique system for the genetic manipulation and the creation of knockout strains of mice through gene targeting. By cultivation in vitro as 3D aggregates called embryoid bodies, ES cells can differentiate into derivatives of all 3 primary germ layers, including cardiomyocytes. Protocols for the in vitro differentiation of ES cells into cardiomyocytes representing all specialized cell types of the heart, such as atrial-like, ventricular-like, sinus nodal-like, and Purkinje-like cells, have been established. During differentiation, cardiac-specific genes as well as proteins, receptors, and ion channels are expressed in a developmental continuum, which closely recapitulates the developmental pattern of early cardiogenesis. Exploitation of ES cell-derived cardiomyocytes has facilitated the analysis of early cardiac development and has permitted in vitro "gain-of-function" or "loss-of-function" genetic studies. Recently, human ES cell lines have been established that can be used to investigate cardiac development and the function of human heart cells and to determine the basic strategies of regenerative cell therapy. This review summarizes the current state of ES cell-derived cardiogenesis and provides an overview of how genomic strategies coupled with this in vitro differentiation system can be applied to cardiac research.
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