Mouse embryonic stem (ES) cells are pluripotent cells derived from the inner cell mass of the preimplantation blastocyst. These cells can be maintained in culture in an undifferentiated state, or they can be induced to differentiate in vitro into multiple cell types, including spontaneously beating cardiac myocytes. The ability to engineer these ES cells genetically, together with their noted rapid differentiation into cardiac myocytes in vitro, makes this a useful tool for the study of cardiac gene expression and function. This in vitro cardiogenesis system may be particularly advantageous for pharmacological studies focusing on discovery of cardioactive drugs and for specifying the functional alterations associated with ablated or mutated cardiac genes that result in a lethal phenotype in vivo.
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The contributions of Wan-In Lin to this work are gratefully acknowledged. This work was supported by the American Heart Association (National Center and Michigan affiliate) and by a U-M Rackham Faculty Grant. J.M. Metzger is an Established Investigator of the American Heart Association.
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