Background: Endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) mediate vascular repair and regeneration. Their number in peripheral blood is related to cardiovascular events in individuals with normal renal function.
Methods: We evaluated the association between functionally active EPCs (cell culture) and traditional cardiovascular risk factors in 265 patients with chronic kidney disease stage V receiving hemodialysis therapy. Thereafter, we prospectively assessed cardiovascular events, e.g. myocardial infarction, percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (including stenting), aorto-coronary bypass, stroke and angiographically verified stenosis of peripheral arteries, and cardiovascular death in this cohort.
Results: In our patients EPCs were related only to age (r=0.154; p=0.01). During a median follow-up period of 36 months 109 (41%) patients experienced a cardiovascular event. In a multiple Cox regression analysis, we identified EPCs (p=0.03) and patient age (p=0.01) as the only independent variables associated with incident cardiovascular events. Moreover, a total of 70 patients died during follow-up, 45 of those due to cardiovascular causes. Log rank test confirmed statistical significance for EPCs concerning incident cardiovascular events (p=0.02).
Conclusions: We found a significant association between the number of functionally active EPCs and cardiovascular events in patients with chronic kidney disease. Thus, defective vascular repair and regeneration may be responsible, at least in part, for the enormous cardiovascular morbidity in this population.