The endothelium is an essential component of the cardiovascular system, playing a vital role in blood vessel formation, vascular homeostasis, permeability and the regulation of inflammation. The integrity of the endothelial monolayer is also critical in the prevention of atherogenesis and as such, restoration of the monolayer is essential following damage or cell death. Over the past decade, data has suggested that progenitor cells from different origins within the body are released into the circulation and contribute to re-endothelialisation. These cells, termed endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs), also gave rise to the theory of new vessel formation within adults (vasculogenesis) without proliferation and migration of mature endothelial cells (angiogenesis). As such, intense research has been carried out identifying how these cells may be mobilised and contribute to vascular repair, either encouraging vasculogenesis into regions of ischemia or the re-endothelialisation of vessels with a dysfunctional endothelium. However, classification and isolation procedures have been a major problem in this area of research and beneficial use for therapeutic application has been controversial. In the present review we focus on the role of EPCs in vascular repair. We also provide an update on EPC classification and discuss autologous stem cell-derived endothelial cell (EC) as a functional source for therapy.
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