Resident vascular progenitor cells--diverse origins, phenotype, and function

J Cardiovasc Transl Res. 2011 Apr;4(2):161-76. doi: 10.1007/s12265-010-9248-9. Epub 2010 Nov 30.


The fundamental contributions that blood vessels make toward organogenesis and tissue homeostasis are reflected by the considerable ramifications that loss of vascular wall integrity has on pre- and postnatal health. During both neovascularization and vessel wall remodeling after insult, the dynamic nature of vascular cell growth and replacement vitiates traditional impressions that blood vessels contain predominantly mature, terminally differentiated cell populations. Recent discoveries have verified the presence of diverse stem/progenitor cells for both vascular and non-vascular progeny within the mural layers of the vasculature. During embryogenesis, this encompasses the emergence of definitive hematopoietic stem cells and multipotent mesoangioblasts from the developing dorsal aorta. Ancestral cells have also been identified and isolated from mature, adult blood vessels, showing variable capacity for endothelial, smooth muscle, and mesenchymal differentiation. At present, the characterization of these different vascular wall progenitors remains somewhat rudimentary, but there is evidence for their constitutive residence within organized compartments in the vessel wall, most compellingly in the tunica adventitia. This review overviews the spectrum of resident stem/progenitor cells that have been documented in macro- and micro-vessels during developmental and adult life and considers the implications for a local, vascular wall stem cell niche(s) in the pathogenesis and treatment of cardiovascular and other diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Vessels / cytology
  • Blood Vessels / physiology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / physiopathology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / surgery
  • Cell Differentiation*
  • Cell Lineage*
  • Endothelial Cells / physiology*
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cell Transplantation
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / physiology*
  • Myocytes, Smooth Muscle / physiology*
  • Neovascularization, Physiologic*
  • Phenotype
  • Signal Transduction
  • Stem Cell Niche