Umbilical Cord Blood Derived Endothelial Progenitor Cells: Isolation, Characterization, and Adhesion Potential in Vitro and in Vivo

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The number one cause of death in the industrialized world, atherosclerosis, can be treated through a variety of methods: angioplasty, stenting, vein graft bypass, synthetic grafts, and maybe one day tissue engineering vessels (TEBVs). The long term goal that motivated this research is the delivery of umbilical cord blood derived endothelial progenitor cells (CB-EPCs) to damaged arteries and possibly reducing the rate of re-occlusion by re-establishing a healthy, functional, intact endothelium. The proposed research tested the following hypotheses: (1) Mild trypsinization methods produces strong endothelial cell (EC) adhesion strength, (2) CB-EPCs are functionally similar to native ECs (specifically human aortic endothelial cells (HAECs)) and exhibit similar anti-thrombotic and anti-inflammatory behavior compared to HAECs, (3) CB-EPCs are capable of adhering to smooth muscle cells (SMCs) and extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins under flow conditions, (4) CB-EPCs can be used to prevent thrombosis in mice that have undergone vein bypass grafts through re-endothelialization of the vessel, and (5) CB-EPCs are capable of proliferating under flow conditions. In order to produce supraphysiological adhesion strengths of HAECs or CB-EPCs, the cells must be detached using 0.025% trypsin for 5 minutes prior to adhesion to adsorbed ECM proteins or SMCs. CB-EPCs have a high proliferation rate and express similar levels of important anti-thrombotic genes and inflammatory proteins compared to HAECs. CB-EPCs and HAECs produce similar levels of nitric oxide and alignment in the direction of flow when exposed to laminar shear stress for at least 24 hours. CB-EPCs are capable of adhering to many different substrates under flow conditions. The adhesion of CB-EPCs with response to shear stress appears to be biphasic and increases with shear stress up to 0.75 dyn/cm2 and then decreases above this value. CB-EPC adhesion is much greater than HAECs and EPCs isolated from peripheral blood (PB-EPCs) of healthy individuals, which can be related to their higher expression level of adhesion integrin α5β1 and their smaller size. When seeded onto FN coated plastic, CB-EPCs proliferated under flow conditions and had a much shorter doubling time than PB-EPCs and HAECs. Proliferation of CB-EPCs and HAECs on SMCs was limited. Further, Cb-EPCs formed network-like structures except when growth factors were removed and a shear stress of at least 5 dyne/cm2 was applied. To assess whether CP-EPCs could promote vessel repair in vivo, human CB-EPCs were injected into SCID mice that received a carotid interpositional vein grafts, resulting in 100% patency. In contrast, only 2 of the 8 saline injected mice had a patent vein graft 2 weeks post surgery. We found that CB-EPC injected mice had roughly 55% endothelialization compared to less than 20% for the patent saline controls, with CB-EPCs making up approximately 33% of this coverage. These results suggest that CB-EPCs could be used as a therapeutic method to prevent vessel re-occlusion in patients undergoing treatment for atherosclerosis.





Brown, Melissa Ann (2009). Umbilical Cord Blood Derived Endothelial Progenitor Cells: Isolation, Characterization, and Adhesion Potential in Vitro and in Vivo. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


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