Telocytes in the porcine heart

PhD research: Khan Junatas

About one decade ago, a novel cell type has been discovered with unique morphology and functions. This interstitial stromal cell, present in the connective tissue of many organs of both humans and laboratory animals, was named initially interstitial Cajal-like cell (ICLC). In 2010, the name ICLC was replaced by a more appropriate one, namely telocyte (TC).

The telocyte has a small oval-shaped cell body, with a small amount of cytoplasm around the nucleus. The perinuclear cytoplasm is rich in mitochondria, a small Golgi-complex and elements of the rough and smooth endoplasmic reticulum, and cytoskeletal elements. The plasmalemma has no (or very thin and discontinuous) basal lamina, and shows some caveolae.

Telocytes have a variable number of long cellular extensions, called telopodes (Tps), that are made by an alternation of podoms (dilated portions containing mitochondria and endoplasmic reticulum) and podomers (thin segments). These Tps form a three-dimensional network that may function as a scaffold to define the correct organization of tissues and organs. TCs demonstrate specific direct and/or indirect contacts with various surrounding cells (both homo- and heterocellular).

Electron microscopy is commonly considered the gold standard method to identify TCs. Nowadays, this identification is combined with immunohistochemistry.

Recently, our research group demonstrated the presence of TCs in the porcine heart using electron microscopy. The general objective of the current research is to clarify the role of these telocytes in the porcine heart.

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