Research into potential targets for cardiac repair encompasses recognition of tissue-resident cells with intrinsic regenerative properties. The adult vertebrate heart is covered by mesothelium, named the epicardium, which becomes active in response to injury and contributes to repair, albeit suboptimally. Motivation to manipulate the epicardium for treatment of myocardial infarction is deeply rooted in its central role in cardiac formation and vasculogenesis during development. Moreover, the epicardium is vital to cardiac muscle regeneration in lower vertebrate and neonatal mammalian-injured hearts. In this review, we discuss our current understanding of the biology of the mammalian epicardium in development and injury. Considering present challenges in the field, we further contemplate prospects for reinstating full embryonic potential in the adult epicardium to facilitate cardiac regeneration.
Stem Cells Transl Med