Technical notes on endothelial progenitor cells: ways to escape from the knowledge plateau

Atherosclerosis. 2008 Apr;197(2):496-503. doi: 10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2007.12.039. Epub 2008 Feb 4.


In the last 10 years an increasing interest has been devoted to the study of endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs), a subtype of immature cells involved in endothelial repair and neoangiogenesis. EPCs have been discovered as a novel integrated part of the cardiovascular system, which plays a comprehensive role in tissue homeostasis. Consistently, alterations and/or reduction of the circulating EPC pool have been associated with different manifestations of cardiovascular disorders and atherosclerosis. This is why, the extent of the EPC pool is now considered a mirror of vascular health, while EPC reduction has become a surrogate biomarker of cardiovascular risk and of the ongoing vascular damage. Unfortunately, the methods used to study EPCs still lack standardization, and this is significantly decelerating progress in the field. In this review, we focus on some aspects related to the two methods used to assess circulating EPCs: flow cytometry and cell culture. We uncover the many traps hidden in the choice of the right protocol, and suggest the best solutions on the basis of evidence and background theories.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, CD / classification*
  • Atherosclerosis / physiopathology
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Cell Culture Techniques
  • Endothelial Cells / cytology*
  • Endothelial Cells / physiology
  • Flow Cytometry / methods
  • Humans
  • Neovascularization, Physiologic / physiology
  • Reagent Kits, Diagnostic
  • Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Stem Cells / physiology


  • Antigens, CD
  • Biomarkers
  • Reagent Kits, Diagnostic