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Cell Prolif. 2008 Feb;41 Suppl 1:146-64. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2184.2008.00488.x.

Progenitor cells and vascular disease.

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Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery, National Heart & Lung Institute, Imperial College London, Hammersmith Hospital, London, UK.


Vascular progenitor cells have been the focus of much attention in recent years; both from the point of view of their pathophysiological roles and their potential as therapeutic agents. However, there is as yet no definitive description of either endothelial or vascular smooth muscle progenitor cells. Cells with the ability to differentiate into mature endothelial and vascular smooth muscle reportedly reside within a number of different tissues, including bone marrow, spleen, cardiac muscle, skeletal muscle and adipose tissue. Within these niches, vascular progenitor cells remain quiescent, until mobilized in response to injury or disease. Once mobilized, these progenitor cells enter the circulation and migrate to sites of damage, where they contribute to the remodelling process. It is generally perceived that endothelial progenitors are reparative, acting to restore vascular homeostasis, while smooth muscle progenitors contribute to pathological changes. Indeed, the number of circulating endothelial progenitor cells inversely correlates with exposure to cardiovascular risk factors and numbers of animal models and human studies have demonstrated therapeutic roles for endothelial progenitor cells, which can be enhanced by manipulating them to overexpress vasculo-protective genes. It remains to be determined whether smooth muscle progenitor cells, which are less well studied than their endothelial counterparts, can likewise be manipulated to achieve therapeutic benefit. This review outlines our current understanding of endothelial and smooth muscle progenitor cell biology, their roles in vascular disease and their potential as therapeutic agents.

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