Cardiac stem cells and early committed cells (CSCs-ECCs) express c-Met and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) receptors and synthesize and secrete the corresponding ligands, hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) and IGF-1. HGF mobilizes CSCs-ECCs and IGF-1 promotes their survival and proliferation. Therefore, HGF and IGF-1 were injected in the hearts of infarcted mice to favor, respectively, the translocation of CSCs-ECCs from the surrounding myocardium to the dead tissue and the viability and growth of these cells within the damaged area. To facilitate migration and homing of CSCs-ECCs to the infarct, a growth factor gradient was introduced between the site of storage of primitive cells in the atria and the region bordering the infarct. The newly-formed myocardium contained arterioles, capillaries, and functionally competent myocytes that with time increased in size, improving ventricular performance at healing and long thereafter. The volume of regenerated myocytes was 2200 m3 at 16 days after treatment and reached 5100 m3 at 4 months. In this interval, nearly 20% of myocytes reached the adult phenotype, varying in size from 10 000 to 20 000 m3. Moreover, there were 4313 arterioles and 15548 capillaries/mm2 myocardium at 16 days, and 316 arterioles and 39056 capillaries at 4 months. Myocardial regeneration induced increased survival and rescued animals with infarcts that were up to 86% of the ventricle, which are commonly fatal. In conclusion, the heart has an endogenous reserve of CSCs-ECCs that can be activated to reconstitute dead myocardium and recover cardiac function.
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