About this Research Topic
Arguably the final step of fetal cardiac development is the transition of the fetal heart to the adult heart. Comparative analysis of mammalian adult heart with the fetal heart has revealed significant differences in structure, function and capacity for regeneration. While fetal heart development utilizes a variety of genetic programs for cardiac formation, the adult heart is designed to sense and adapt to the body's physiological requirements. For example, soon after birth, cardiomyocytes cease to divide, and all subsequent increases in myocardial mass are accomplished by growth in the size of the individual cardiac muscle cells due to robust gene transcription/translation. This growth strategy is universally conserved in mammals (including humans) and is also generally associated with decrements in the expression of genes/proteins that promote cell cycle progression and cytokinesis. However, little to no information is available regarding the regulatory factors that manage the expression of genes/proteins and the genetic framework that operates this fundamental and irreversible shift in cardiac cell division. Further, recent evidence that cardiac stem cells are unable to integrate into nor form new myocardium ignites a renewed interest in the field to identify factors that have a bona fide regenerative capacity for the post-natal heart.
The goal of this special edition is to highlight the importance of neonatal heart development in linking the fetal heart to the adult heart with a focus on questions that may guide this process.
Keywords: Perinatal heart, epigenetics, cellular growth and metabolism, remodelling, cellular adaptation
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