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Histol Histopathol. 2013 Feb;28(2):175-83. doi: 10.14670/HH-28.175.

Proangiogenic hematopoietic cells of monocytic origin: roles in vascular regeneration and pathogenic processes of systemic sclerosis.

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Department of Environmental Immuno-Dermatology, Yokohama City University Graduate School of Medicine, Yokohama, Japan.


New blood vessel formation is critical, not only for organ development and tissue regeneration, but also for various pathologic processes, such as tumor development and vasculopathy. The maintenance of the postnatal vascular system requires constant remodeling, which occurs through angiogenesis, vasculogenesis, and arteriogenesis. Vasculogenesis is mediated by the de novo differentiation of mature endothelial cells from endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs). Early studies provided evidence that bone marrow-derived CD14⁺ monocytes can serve as a subset of EPCs because of their expression of endothelial markers and ability to promote neovascularization in vitro and in vivo. However, the current consensus is that monocytic cells do not give rise to endothelial cells in vivo, but function as support cells, by promoting vascular formation and repair through their immediate recruitment to the site of vascular injury, secretion of proangiogenic factors, and differentiation into mural cells. These monocytes that function in a supporting role in vascular repair are now termed monocytic pro-angiogenic hematopoietic cells (PHCs). Systemic sclerosis (SSc) is a multisystem connective tissue disease characterized by excessive fibrosis and microvasculopathy, along with poor vascular formation and repair. We recently showed that in patients with SSc, circulating monocytic PHCs increase dramatically and have enhanced angiogenic potency. These effects may be induced in response to defective vascular repair machinery. Since CD14⁺ monocytes can also differentiate into fibroblast-like cells that produce extracellular matrix proteins, here we propose a new hypothesis that aberrant monocytic PHCs, once mobilized into circulation, may also contribute to the fibrotic process of SSc.

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