The introduction of stem cells in cardiology provides new tools in understanding the regenerative processes of the normal and pathologic heart and opens new options for the treatment of cardiovascular diseases. The feasibility of adult bone marrow autologous and allogenic cell therapy of ischemic cardiomyopathies has been demonstrated in humans. However, many unresolved questions remain to link experimental with clinical observations. The demonstration that the heart is a self-renewing organ and that its cell turnover is regulated by myocardial progenitor cells offers novel pathogenetic mechanisms underlying cardiac diseases and raises the possibility to regenerate the damaged heart. Indeed, cardiac stem progenitor cells (CSPCs) have recently been isolated from the human heart by several laboratories although differences in methodology and phenotypic profile have been described. The present review points to the potential role of CSPCs in the onset and development of congestive heart failure and its reversal by regenerative approaches aimed at the preservation and expansion of the resident pool of progenitors.
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