, Volume 102, Issue 6, pp 565-571

Endothelial progenitor cells correlate with endothelial function in patients with coronary artery disease

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Endothelial progenitor cells (EPC) predict morbidity and mortality in patients at cardiovascular risk.Patients with low EPC counts and impaired endothelial colony forming activity have a higher incidence for cardiovascular events compared to patients with high EPC counts and favorable colony forming activity. The pathophysiological basis for this finding may be an insufficient endothelial cell repair by EPC.We postulate that EPC influence coronary endothelial function which itself is relevant for the outcome of patients at cardiovascular risk. To test this hypothesis in humans, endothelial function was invasively assessed in 90 patients with coronary heart disease by quantitative coronary angiography during intracoronary acetylcholine infusion. Flow cytometry of mononuclear cells isolated from peripheral blood was performed to assess CD133+ or CD34+/KDR+ EPC. EPC function was assessed ex vivo by determination of endothelial colony forming units. Low EPC number as well as impaired endothelial colony forming activity correlated with severely impaired coronary endothelial function in univariate analysis. Multivariate analysis revealed that only the number of EPC predicts severe endothelial dysfunction independent of classical cardiovascular risk factors. Endothelial function closely correlates with the number of circulating EPC providing new mechanistic insights and options for risk assessment in patients with coronary heart disease.