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Adult and pluripotent stem cells represent a ready supply of cellular raw materials that can be used to generate the functionally mature cells needed to replace damaged or diseased heart tissue. However, the use of stem cells for cardiac regenerative therapies is limited by the low efficiency by which stem cells are differentiated in vitro to cardiac lineages as well as the inability to effectively deliver stem cells and their derivatives to regions of damaged myocardium. In this review, we discuss the various biomaterial-based approaches that are being implemented to direct stem cell fate both in vitro and in vivo. First, we discuss the stem cell types available for cardiac repair and the engineering of naturally and synthetically derived biomaterials to direct their in vitro differentiation to the cell types that comprise heart tissue. Next, we describe biomaterial-based approaches that are being implemented to enhance the in vivo integration and differentiation of stem cells delivered to areas of cardiac damage. Finally, we present emerging trends of using stem cell-based biomaterial approaches to deliver pro-survival factors and fully vascularized tissue to the damaged and diseased cardiac tissue.
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