Several clinical trials of bone marrow stem cell therapy for myocardial infarction are ongoing, but the mechanistic basis for any potential therapeutic effect is currently unclear. A growing body of evidence suggests that the potential improvement in cardiac function is largely independent of cardiac muscle regeneration. A study by Fazel et al. in this issue of the JCI provides evidence that bone marrow–derived c-kit+ cells can lead to an improvement in cardiac function in mutant hypomorphic c-kit mice that is independent of transdifferentiation into either cardiac muscle or endothelial cells, but rather is associated with the release of angiogenic cytokines and associated neovascularization in the infarct border zone (see the related article beginning on page 1865). These findings suggest the potential therapeutic effect of specific paracrine pathways for angiogenesis in improving cardiac function in the injured heart.
Kenneth R. Chien