Diabetes mellitus is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease due to its negative impact on the vascular endothelium. The damaged endothelium is repaired by resident cells also through the contribution of a population of circulating cells derived from bone marrow. These cells, termed endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) are involved in maintaining endothelial homeostasis and contributes to the formation of new blood vessels with a process called postnatal vasculogenesis. The mechanisms whereby these cells allow for protection of the cardiovascular system are still unclear; nevertheless, consistent evidences have shown that impairment and reduction of EPCs are hallmark features of type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Therefore, EPC alterations might have a pathogenic role in diabetic complications, thus becoming a potential therapeutic target. In this review, EPC alterations will be examined in the context of macrovascular and microvascular complications of diabetes, highlighting their roles and functions in the progression of the disease.
Copyright © 2012 International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Inc.