Organ-specific mesenchymal cells naturally reside in the stroma, where they are exposed to some environmental variables affecting their biology and functions. Risk factors such as diabetes or aging influence their adaptive response. In these cases, permanent epigenetic modifications may be introduced in the cells with important consequences on their local homeostatic activity and therapeutic potential. Numerous results suggest that mesenchymal cells, virtually present in every organ, may contribute to tissue regeneration mostly by paracrine mechanisms. Intriguingly, the heart is emerging as a source of different cells, including pericytes, cardiac progenitors, and cardiac fibroblasts. According to phenotypic, functional, and molecular criteria, these should be classified as mesenchymal cells. Not surprisingly, in recent years, the attention on these cells as therapeutic tools has grown exponentially, although only very preliminary data have been obtained in clinical trials to date. In this review, we summarized the state of the art about the phenotypic features, functions, regenerative properties, and clinical applicability of mesenchymal cells, with a particular focus on those of cardiac origin.
- Journal Article