Objective: Autopsy and biopsy studies have shown that there is significantly more fibrosis in hearts of patients with hypertensive heart disease compared to normal hearts. Fibrocytes, a population of circulating bone marrow-derived cells, have been shown to home to tissues and promote scar formation in several diseases, but their role in human hypertensive heart disease has not been investigated to date. Our objective was to determine whether fibrocyte levels are elevated in individuals with hypertensive heart disease.
Methods: We measured peripheral blood fibrocyte levels and their activated phenotypes in 12 individuals with hypertensive heart disease as determined by increased left ventricular mass on noninvasive imaging and compared them to fibrocyte levels from 19 healthy normal controls and correlated them to cardiac MRI findings.
Results: Compared to normal controls, individuals with hypertensive heart disease had significantly higher circulating levels of total fibrocytes [median (interquartile range); 149000 (62200-220000) vs. 564500 (321000-1.2900e(+006)), P < 0.0001, respectively] as well as activated fibrocytes [15700 (6380-19800) vs. 478500 (116500-1.2360e(+006)) P < 0.0001]. Moreover, the fibrocyte subsets expressing the chemokine markers CXCR4 (P < 0.0001), CCR2 (P < 0.0001), CCR7 (P < 0.0001) and coexpression of both CXCR4 and CCR2 (P < 0.0001) were significantly elevated in patients with hypertensive heart disease compared to controls. Lastly, in patients with hypertensive heart disease there was a strong correlation between left ventricular mass index and total fibrocytes (r = 0.65, P = 0.037) and activated fibrocytes (r = 0.70, P = 0.016).
Conclusion: Our data suggest that bone marrow-derived circulating fibrocytes are associated with the presence and extent of left ventricular hypertrophy in patients with hypertensive heart disease.