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Smooth muscle stem cells.

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Center for Cell and Gene Therapy, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas, USA.


Vascular smooth muscle cells (SMCs) originate from multiple types of progenitor cells. In the embryo, the most well studied SMC progenitor is the cardiac neural crest stem cell. Smooth muscle differentiation in the neural crest lineage is controlled by a combination of cell intrinsic factors, including Pax3, Tbx1, FoxC1, and serum response factor, interacting with various extrinsic factors in the local environment such as bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs), Wnts, endothelin (ET)-1, and FGF8. Additional sources of multipotential cells that give rise to vascular SMCs in the embryo include proepicardial cells and possibly endothelial progenitor cells. In the adult, vascular SMCs must continually repair arterial injuries and maintain functional mass in response to changing demands upon the vessel wall. Recent evidence suggests that this is accomplished, in part, by recruiting multipotential vascular progenitors from bone marrow-derived stem cells as well as from less well defined sources within adult tissues themselves. This article will review our current understanding of the origins of vascular SMCs from multipotential stem and progenitor cells in developing as well as adult vasculature.

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