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BioMed Research International
Volume 2014 (2014), Article ID 679168, 8 pages
Review Article

Building and Repairing the Heart: What Can We Learn from Embryonic Development?

1Instituto de Engenharia Biomédica (INEB), Universidade do Porto, Rua do Campo Alegre 823, 4150-180 Porto, Portugal
2Department of Developmental and Regenerative Biology and The Black Family Stem Cell Institute, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY 10029, USA
3Faculdade de Engenharia da Universidade do Porto (FEUP), Rua Dr. Roberto Frias, s/n, 4200-465 Porto, Portugal
4Instituto de Ciências Biomédicas Abel Salazar (ICBAS), Universidade do Porto, Rua de Jorge Viterbo Ferreira 228, 4050-313 Porto, Portugal

Received 6 January 2014; Accepted 20 February 2014; Published 17 April 2014

Academic Editor: Giancarlo Forte

Copyright © 2014 Ana G. Freire et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Mammalian heart formation is a complex morphogenetic event that depends on the correct temporal and spatial contribution of distinct cell sources. During cardiac formation, cellular specification, differentiation, and rearrangement are tightly regulated by an intricate signaling network. Over the last years, many aspects of this network have been uncovered not only due to advances in cardiac development comprehension but also due to the use of embryonic stem cells (ESCs) in vitro model system. Additionally, several of these pathways have been shown to be functional or reactivated in the setting of cardiac disease. Knowledge withdrawn from studying heart development, ESCs differentiation, and cardiac pathophysiology may be helpful to envisage new strategies for improved cardiac repair/regeneration. In this review, we provide a comparative synopsis of the major signaling pathways required for cardiac lineage commitment in the embryo and murine ESCs. The involvement and possible reactivation of these pathways following heart injury and their role in tissue recovery will also be discussed.