Indexed on: 17 Apr '14Published on: 17 Apr '14Published in: Tissue engineering. Part C, Methods
Cardiac progenitor cells (CPCs) are committed to the cardiac lineage but retain their proliferative capacity before becoming quiescent mature cardiomyocytes (CMs). In medical therapy and research, the use of human pluripotent stem cell-derived CPCs would have several advantages compared with mature CMs, as the progenitors show better engraftment into existing heart tissues, and provide unique potential for cardiovascular developmental as well as for pharmacological studies. Here, we demonstrate that the CAG promoter-driven enhanced green fluorescence protein (EGFP) reporter system enables the identification and isolation of embryonic stem cell-derived CPCs. Tracing of CPCs during differentiation confirmed up-regulation of surface markers, previously described to identify cardiac precursors and early CMs. Isolated CPCs express cardiac lineage-specific transcripts, still have proliferating capacity, and can be re-aggregated into embryoid body-like structures (CAG-EGFP(high) rEBs). Expression of troponin T and NKX2.5 mRNA is up-regulated in long-term cultured CAG-EGFP(high) rEBs, in which more than 90% of the cells become Troponin I positive mature CMs. Moreover, about one third of the CAG-EGFP(high) rEBs show spontaneous contractions. The method described here provides a powerful tool to generate expandable cultures of pure human CPCs that can be used for exploring early markers of the cardiac lineage, as well as for drug screening or tissue engineering applications.