Regeneration or replacement of lost cardiomyocytes within the heart has the potential to revolutionize cardiovascular medicine. Numerous methodologies have been used to achieve this aim, including the engraftment of bone marrow- and heart-derived cells as well as the identification of modulators of adult cardiomyocyte proliferation. Recently, the conversion of human somatic cells into induced pluripotent stem cells and induced cardiomyocyte-like cells has transformed potential approaches toward this goal, and the engraftment of cardiac progenitors derived from human embryonic stem cells into patients is now feasible. Here we review recent advances in our understanding of the genetic and epigenetic control of human cardiogenesis, cardiac differentiation, and the induced reprogramming of somatic cells to cardiomyocytes. We also cover genetic programs for inducing the proliferation of endogenous cardiomyocytes and discuss the genetic state of cells used in cardiac regenerative medicine.
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