Progenitor cells in vascular disease

Neil Roberts, Marjan Jahangiri, Qingbo Xu
Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine 2005, 9 (3): 583-91
Stem cell research has the potential to provide solutions to many chronic diseases via the field of regeneration therapy. In vascular biology, endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) have been identified as contributing to angiogenesis and hence have therapeutic potential to revascularise ischaemic tissues. EPCs have also been shown to endothelialise vascular grafts and therefore may contribute to endothelial maintenance. EPC number has been shown to be reduced in patients with cardiovascular disease, leading to speculation that atherosclerosis may be caused by a consumptive loss of endothelial repair capacity. Animal experiments have shown that EPCs reendothelialise injured vessels and that this reduces neointimal formation, confirming that EPCs have an atheroprotective effect. Smooth muscle cell accumulation in the neointimal space is characteristic of many forms of atherosclerosis, however the source of these cells is now thought to be from smooth muscle progenitor cells (SMPCs) rather than the adjacent media. There is evidence for the presence of SMPCs in the adventitia of animals and that SMPCs circulate in human blood. There is also data to support SMPCs contributing to neointimal formation but their origin remains unknown. This article will review the roles of EPCs and SMPCs in the development of vascular disease by examining experimental data from in vitro studies, animal models of atherosclerosis and clinical studies.

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