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Stem Cells. 2009 Feb;27(2):399-407. doi: 10.1634/stemcells.2008-0800.

Diabetes impairs the vascular recruitment of normal stem cells by oxidant damage, reversed by increases in pAMPK, heme oxygenase-1, and adiponectin.

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Department of Internal Medicine, University of Genoa, S. Martino Hospital, Genoa, Italy.



Atherosclerosis progression is accelerated in diabetes mellitus (DM) by either direct endothelial damage or reduced availability and function of endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs). Both alterations are related to increased oxidant damage.


We examined if DM specifically impairs vascular signaling, thereby reducing the recruitment of normal EPCs, and if increases in antioxidant levels by induction of heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1) can reverse this condition.


Control and diabetic rats were treated with the HO-1 inducer cobalt protoporphyrin (CoPP) once a week for 3 weeks. Eight weeks after the development of diabetes, EPCs harvested from the aorta of syngenic inbred normal rats and labeled with technetium-99m-exametazime were infused via the femoral vein to estimate their blood clearance and aortic recruitment. Circulating endothelial cells (CECs) and the aortic expression of thrombomodulin (TM), CD31, and endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) were used to measure endothelial damage.


DM reduced blood clearance and aortic recruitment of EPCs. Both parameters were returned to control levels by CoPP treatment without affecting EPC kinetics in normal animals. These abnormalities of EPCs in DM were paralleled by reduced serum adiponectin levels, increased numbers of CECs, reduced endothelial expression of phosphorylated eNOS, and reduced levels of TM, CD31, and phosphorylated AMP-activated protein kinase (pAMPK). CoPP treatment restored all of these parameters to normal levels.


Type II DM and its related oxidant damage hamper the interaction between the vascular wall and normal EPCs by mechanisms that are, at least partially, reversed by the induction of HO-1 gene expression, adiponectin, and pAMPK levels.

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