An international research team from China and the United States has identified a family of molecules that can stimulate stem cells to develop into beating heart muscle cells in zebrafish, making the molecules potential candidates in therapeutic approaches for cardiac regeneration and repair (Ni TT et al. Chem Biol. 2011;18:1658-1668).
After screening nearly 4000 small molecules, the researchers discovered 3 structurally related molecules that could selectively enlarge the size of the developing zebrafish embryonic heart by stimulating the production of new cardiac muscle cells from stem cells. The compounds, which appear to oppose a signaling pathway known for its role in embryonic and heart development in embryos and embryonic stem cells, also stimulated mouse embryonic stem cells to differentiate into beating cardiac muscle cells.
Hampton T. Creating Cardiac Muscle Cells. JAMA. 2012;307(5):446. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.70