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Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2004 Aug;24(8):1442-7. Epub 2004 Jun 10.

Smoking cessation rapidly increases circulating progenitor cells in peripheral blood in chronic smokers.

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  • 1Department of Cardiology, Nagoya University Graduate School of Medicine, 65 Tsurumai-cho, Showa-ku, Nagoya 466-8550, Japan.



Circulating endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) contribute to postnatal angiogenesis. The number of circulating EPCs has an inverse correlation with coronary risk scores. However, the effect of smoking on the number of circulating EPCs is not well-known.


We examined the effects of chronic smoking and of smoking cessation on EPC levels. Circulating EPCs were quantified by flow cytometry as CD45lowCD34+CD133+ (progenitor cells [PCs]) or CD45lowCD34+CD133+VEGFR2+ (EPCs) in 14 nonsmokers and in 15 smokers. All smokers quit smoking. Eight quit smoking with nicotine patch and 7 without nicotine patch. PC/EPC levels were inversely correlated with the number of cigarettes smoked. Circulating PCs/EPCs increased rapidly after cessation (P<0.0001) and decreased again after resumption of smoking to the level similar to that before cessation (P=0.0031). The magnitude of increase in EPCs was greater in light smokers than in heavy smokers.


The number of circulating PCs/EPCs was reduced in chronic smokers. Smoking cessation led to a rapid restoration of PC/EPC levels. The recovery of EPC levels was greater in light smokers than in heavy smokers. The decreased number of circulating EPCs would make smokers susceptible to cardiovascular disease, and even short-time cessation of smoking may be an effective means to reduce cardiovascular risk.

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