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Circulation. 2013 Feb 12;127(6):710-9. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.112.116103. Epub 2013 Jan 10.

Molecular imaging of the paracrine proangiogenic effects of progenitor cell therapy in limb ischemia.

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Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, OR 97239, USA.



Stem cells are thought to enhance vascular remodeling in ischemic tissue in part through paracrine effects. Using molecular imaging, we tested the hypothesis that treatment of limb ischemia with multipotential adult progenitor cells (MAPCs) promotes recovery of blood flow through the recruitment of proangiogenic monocytes.


Hind-limb ischemia was produced in mice by iliac artery ligation, and MAPCs were administered intramuscularly on day 1. Optical imaging of luciferase-transfected MAPCs indicated that cells survived for 1 week. Contrast-enhanced ultrasound on days 3, 7, and 21 showed a more complete recovery of blood flow and greater expansion of microvascular blood volume in MAPC-treated mice than in controls. Fluorescent microangiography demonstrated more complete distribution of flow to microvascular units in MAPC-treated mice. On ultrasound molecular imaging, expression of endothelial P-selectin and intravascular recruitment of CX(3)CR-1-positive monocytes were significantly higher in MAPC-treated mice than in the control groups at days 3 and 7 after arterial ligation. Muscle immunohistology showed a >10-fold-greater infiltration of monocytes in MAPC-treated than control-treated ischemic limbs at all time points. Intravital microscopy of ischemic or tumor necrosis factor-α-treated cremaster muscle demonstrated that MAPCs migrate to perimicrovascular locations and potentiate selectin-dependent leukocyte rolling. In vitro migration of human CD14(+) monocytes was 10-fold greater in response to MAPC-conditioned than basal media.


In limb ischemia, MAPCs stimulate the recruitment of proangiogenic monocytes through endothelial activation and enhanced chemotaxis. These responses are sustained beyond the MAPC lifespan, suggesting that paracrine effects promote flow recovery by rebalancing the immune response toward a more regenerative phenotype.

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