Almost 7 years after their first derivation from human embryos, a pressing urgency to deliver the promises of therapies based on human embryonic stem cells (hESC) has arisen. Protocols have been developed to support long-term growth of undifferentiated cells and partially direct differentiation to specific cell lineages. The stage has almost been set for the next step: transplantation in animal models of human disease. Here, we review the state-of-the-art with respect to the transplantation of embryonic stem cell-derived heart cells in animals. One problem affecting progress in this area and functional analysis in vivo in general, is the availability of genetically marked hESC. There are only a few cell lines that express reporter genes ubiquitously, and none is associated with particular lineages; a major hurdle has been the resistance of hESC to established infection and chemical transfection methodologies to introduce ectopic genes. The methods that have been successful are reviewed. We also describe the processes for generating a new, genetically-modified hESC line that constitutively expresses GFP as well as some of its characteristics, including its ability to form cardiomyocytes with electrophysiological properties of ventricular-like cells.
- Cardiomyocyte transplantation
- Genetic modification of hESC
- Human embryonic stem cells
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