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Vertebrate cardiac regeneration: evolutionary and developmental perspectives.


Cardiac regeneration is an ancestral trait in vertebrates that is lost both as more recent vertebrate lineages evolved to adapt to new environments and selective pressures, and as members of certain species developmentally progress towards their adult forms. While higher vertebrates like humans and rodents resolve cardiac injury with permanent fibrosis and loss of cardiac output as adults, neonates of these same species can fully regenerate heart structure and function after injury - as can adult lower vertebrates like many teleost fish and urodele amphibians. Recent research has elucidated several broad factors hypothesized to contribute to this loss of cardiac regenerative potential both evolutionarily and developmentally: an oxygen-rich environment, vertebrate thermogenesis, a complex adaptive immune system, and cancer risk trade-offs. In this review, we discuss the evidence for these hypotheses as well as the cellular participators and molecular regulators by which they act to govern heart regeneration in vertebrates.

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