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    Cellular cardiomyoplasty has rapidly risen to prominence in the clinic following a myocardial infarction; however, low engraftment of transplanted cells limits the therapeutic benefit to these procedures. Recently, lineage-specific stem cells differentiated into cardiomyocytes have gained much attention to assist in the repair of an injured heart tissue; however, questions regarding the ideal cell source remain. In the present study, we have identified a source that is easy to extract stem cells from and show that the cells present have a high plasticity toward the cardiomyogenic lineage. We focused on the recently discovered neural crest stem cells residing in the periodontal ligament that can be easily obtained through dental procedures. Neural crest stem cells were obtained from human excised third molars and differentiated in culture using a protocol for directed differentiation into cardiomyocytes. Differentiation of cells was assessed through gene expression and immunostaining studies. Optical stimulation using pulsed infrared radiation (IR) (λ = 1863 nm) was delivered to cell aggregates to study their contractile ability. We show that neural crest stem cells can be differentiated to a cardiomyogenic lineage, which was verified through immunostaining and gene expression. We observed a significant increase in cardiomyocyte-specific markers, NK2 homeobox 5 (NKX2.5) and troponin T type 2 (TNNT2), with positive changes in tropomyosin I (TPM1), gap junction protein alpha 1/Cx43 (GJA1/Cx43), and myocyte enhancement factor 2C (MEF2C). Furthermore, we were able to elicit and maintain pulse-by-pulse contractile responses in the derived cells, including in cardiospheres, with pulsed IR delivered at various radiant energies. The contractility in responses to IR could be maintained at different frequencies (0.25-2 Hz) and up to 10-min durations. While these cells did not maintain their contractility following cessation of IR, these cells demonstrated responses to the optical stimuli that are consistent with previous reports. We also found no evidence for irreversible mitochondrial depolarization in these cells following the long duration of infrared stimulation, suggesting the robustness of these cells. Overall, these results suggest the merit of neural crest-derived stem cells for cardiomyogenic applications and a potential cell source for repair that should contribute to efforts to translate cell-based strategies to the clinic.


    Jordan M Greenberg, Vicente Lumbreras, Daniel Pelaez, Suhrud M Rajguru, Herman S Cheung. Neural Crest Stem Cells Can Differentiate to a Cardiomyogenic Lineage with an Ability to Contract in Response to Pulsed Infrared Stimulation. Tissue engineering. Part C, Methods. 2016 Oct;22(10):982-990

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    PMID: 28192031

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