Cardiovascular progenitor cells (CVPCs) derived from human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs), including human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) and human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs), hold great promise for the study of cardiovascular development and cell-based therapy of heart diseases, but their applications are challenged by the difficulties in their efficient generation and stable maintenance. This study aims to develop chemically defined systems for robust generation and stable propagation of hPSC-derived CVPCs by modulating the key early developmental pathways involved in human cardiovascular specification and CVPC self-renewal. Herein we report that a combination of bone morphogenetic protein 4 (BMP4), glycogen synthase kinase 3 (GSK3) inhibitor CHIR99021 and ascorbic acid is sufficient to rapidly convert monolayer-cultured hPSCs, including hESCs and hiPSCs, into homogeneous CVPCs in a chemically defined medium under feeder- and serum-free culture conditions. These CVPCs stably self-renewed under feeder- and serum-free conditions and expanded over 10(7)-fold when the differentiation-inducing signals from BMP, GSK3 and Activin/Nodal pathways were simultaneously eliminated. Furthermore, these CVPCs exhibited expected genome-wide molecular features of CVPCs, retained potentials to generate major cardiovascular lineages including cardiomyocytes, smooth muscle cells and endothelial cells in vitro, and were non-tumorigenic in vivo. Altogether, the established systems reported here permit efficient generation and stable maintenance of hPSC-derived CVPCs, which represent a powerful tool to study early embryonic cardiovascular development and provide a potentially safe source of cells for myocardial regenerative medicine.
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