This review questions the old paradigm that describes the heart as a post-mitotic organ and introduces the notion of the heart as a self-renewing organ regulated by a compartment of multipotent cardiac stem cells (CSCs) capable of regenerating myocytes and coronary vessels throughout life. Because of this dramatic change in cardiac biology, the objective is to provide an alternative perspective of the aging process of the heart and stimulate research in an area that pertains to all of us without exception. The recent explosion of the field of stem cell biology, with the recognition that the possibility exists for extrinsic and intrinsic regeneration of myocytes and coronary vessels, necessitates reevaluation of cardiac homeostasis and myocardial aging. From birth to senescence, the mammalian heart is composed of non-dividing and dividing cells. Loss of telomeric DNA is minimal in fetal and neonatal myocardium but rather significant in the senescent heart. Aging affects the growth and differentiation potential of CSCs interfering not only with their ability to sustain physiological cell turnover but also with their capacity to adapt to increases in pressure and volume loads. The recognition of factors enhancing the activation of the CSC pool, their mobilization, and translocation, however, suggests that the detrimental effects of aging on the heart might be prevented or reversed by local stimulation of CSCs or the intramyocardial delivery of CSCs following their expansion and rejuvenation in vitro. CSC therapy may become, perhaps, a novel strategy for the devastating problem of heart failure in the old population.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
- Physiology (medical)