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Brain Behav Immun. 2009 May;23(4):419-26. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2008.08.005. Epub 2008 Aug 31.

Bone-marrow derived progenitor cells are associated with psychosocial determinants of health after controlling for classical biological and behavioral cardiovascular risk factors.

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Institute for Transplantation Diagnostics and Cell Therapeutics, University Hospital, Duesseldorf 40225, Germany.



Circulating progenitor cells have been implicated with maintaining vascular integrity. Low counts are found in adults with high cardiovascular risk and are associated with impaired endothelial function. It remains unknown whether psychosocial risk factors are independently related to counts of circulating progenitor cells.


We investigated a random sample of 468 adult industrial employees (mean age 41.2 years, 89% men) of Caucasian origin. Cardiovascular risk factors (blood pressure, LDL, HDL and C-reactive protein), health behavior (smoking, alcohol and physical exercise), psychological variables (effort-reward imbalance social support, negative affectivity) and interaction terms served as predictors of circulating progenitor cells (CD34+ CD31dim) as enumerated by flow-cytometry.


Psychosocial variables were independently associated with progenitor cell counts. The association with risk factors increased with age (explained variance in 18-36 year olds R(2)=0.17, p=0.55; age 36.1-46 R(2)=0.32, p=0.001; age>46 R(2)=0.27, p<0.001). Data revealed a shift from a larger association between behavioral and psychosocial variables and cell counts to a stronger association between biological variables and cell counts in older individuals. A significant interaction was observed between smoking and effort-reward imbalance in middle-aged subjects, those with both risk factors present had lower cell counts. In older employees, the interaction between biological risk factors and smoking was related to lower cell counts.


In working middle-aged and older men, psychosocial risk factors were related to circulating counts of progenitor cells. Smoking interacted negatively with psychosocial risk factors (middle-aged men) or with biological risk factors (older employees).

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