The clinical application of cell transplantation for severe heart failure is a promising strategy to improve impaired cardiac function. Recently, an array of cell types, including bone marrow cells, endothelial progenitors, mesenchymal stem cells, resident cardiac stem cells, and embryonic stem cells, have become important candidates for cell sources for cardiac repair. In the present study, we focused on the placenta as a cell source. Cells from the chorionic plate in the fetal portion of the human placenta were obtained after delivery by the primary culture method, and the cells generated in this study had the Y sex chromosome, indicating that the cells were derived from the fetus. The cells potentially expressed 'working' cardiomyocyte-specific genes such as cardiac myosin heavy chain 7β, atrial myosin light chain, cardiac α-actin by gene chip analysis, and Csx/Nkx2.5, GATA4 by RT-PCR, cardiac troponin-I and connexin 43 by immunohistochemistry. These cells were able to differentiate into cardiomyocytes. Cardiac troponin-I and connexin 43 displayed a discontinuous pattern of localization at intercellular contact sites after cardiomyogenic differentiation, suggesting that the chorionic mesoderm contained a large number of cells with cardiomyogenic potential. The cells began spontaneously beating 3 days after co-cultivation with murine fetal cardiomyocytes and the frequency of beating cells reached a maximum on day 10. The contraction of the cardiomyocytes was rhythmical and synchronous, suggesting the presence of electrical communication between the cells. Placenta-derived human fetal cells may be useful for patients who cannot supply bone marrow cells but want to receive stem cell-based cardiac therapy.
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