BMP and WNT: the road to cardiomyocytes is paved with precise modulation
Production of cardiomyocytes in vitro is a booming topic in the stem cell field at present. Using pluripotent cells, it is now possible to generate human cardiomyocyte-like cells for high-throughput platforms of analysis or screening. For the field of cardiology, there are immediate applications to drug discovery, including high-throughput screens and toxicity testing. Furthermore, differentiating human cells to cardiomyocytes may shed light on early stages of human fetal development, which would otherwise remain inaccessible for ethical reasons. In the effort to meet these ambitious goals, recently the quest for defined protocols with precise conditions has garnered much attention and been accompanied by significant advancements. However, the issues of high reproducibility and efficient maturation grade remain. One aspect linked to those pitfalls is the lack of comprehensive knowledge in the necessary mechanisms governing the in vitro differentiation of human pluripotent cells towards cardiomyocytes. This is precisely the research question that Rao and colleagues address in a recent report (1).