Pumping blood around our bodies requires some serious strength, and this crucial role falls to cardiac muscle cells, known as cardiomyocytes. A heart attack can damage these cells and raise the risk of heart failure, but repairing the heart is no easy task; cardiomyocytes cannot renew themselves in adulthood, so research is focusing on stem cells, and on understanding how cardiac muscle develops in the first place. Early in development, the cells that eventually give rise to cardiomyocytes are unspecialised, capable of producing cardiac muscle as well as other heart tissues. However, a recent study found a key regulatory protein, Hopx, which is diagnostic of cells committed to producing only cardiomyocytes; the images represent lineage tracing of progenitor cells expressing Hopx, highlighting the cardiomyocytes which arose from them during development. Being able to identify these muscle-making cells could provide a useful tool for the development of regenerative therapies.
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