Human endothelial progenitor cells (hEPCs) are adult stem cells, located in the bone marrow and peripheral blood. These cells can be differentiated into mature endothelial cells, which are involved in processes of angiogenesis and vessel regeneration. Different phenotypes and subtypes of endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs), such as early and late EPCs, have been described according to their functionality. Thus, it has been shown that early EPCs release cytokines that promote tissue regeneration and neovasculogenesis, whereas late EPC and endothelial colony forming cells (ECFCs) contribute to the formation of blood vessels and stimulate tube formation. It has been demonstrated that the number of circulating hEPC is decreased in individuals with hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, and/or diabetes. In addition, the number and the migratory activity of these cells are inversely correlated with risk factors such as hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. On the other hand, the number of circulating hEPC is increased in hypoxia or acute myocardial infarction (AMI). hEPCs have been used for cell-based therapies due to their capacity to contribute in the re-endothelialization of injured blood vessels and neovascularization in ischemic tissues. This chapter provides an overview of the key role of hEPC in promoting angiogenesis and their potential use for cell therapy.
Part of the book: Microcirculation Revisited