Human white adipose tissue vasculature contains endothelial colony-forming cells with robust in vivo vasculogenic potential

Angiogenesis. 2013 Oct;16(4):735-44. doi: 10.1007/s10456-013-9350-0. Epub 2013 May 1.


Blood-derived endothelial colony-forming cells (ECFCs) have robust vasculogenic potential that can be exploited to bioengineer long-lasting human vascular networks in vivo. However, circulating ECFCs are exceedingly rare in adult peripheral blood. Because the mechanism by which ECFCs are mobilized into circulation is currently unknown, the reliability of peripheral blood as a clinical source of ECFCs remains a concern. Thus, there is a need to find alternative sources of autologous ECFCs. Here we aimed to determine whether ECFCs reside in the vasculature of human white adipose tissue (WAT) and to evaluate if WAT-derived ECFCs have equal clinical potential to blood-derived ECFCs. We isolated the complete endothelial cell (EC) population from intact biopsies of normal human subcutaneous WAT by enzymatic digestion and selection of CD31(+) cells. Subsequently, we extensively compared WAT-derived EC phenotype and functionality to bonafide ECFCs derived from both umbilical cord blood and adult peripheral blood. We demonstrated that human WAT is indeed a dependable source of ECFCs with indistinguishable properties to adult peripheral blood ECFCs, including hierarchical clonogenic ability, large expansion potential, stable endothelial phenotype, and robust in vivo blood vessel-forming capacity. Considering the unreliability and low rate of occurrence of ECFCs in adult blood and that biopsies of WAT can be obtained with minimal intervention in an ambulatory setting, our results indicate WAT as a more practical alternative to obtain large amounts of readily available autologous ECFCs for future vascular cell therapies.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue, White / blood supply*
  • Adult
  • Adult Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Animals
  • Cell Division
  • Cell Separation
  • Colony-Forming Units Assay
  • Endothelial Cells / cytology*
  • Fetal Blood / cytology
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Heterografts
  • Humans
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / cytology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • Microvessels / growth & development
  • Muscle, Smooth, Vascular / cytology
  • Myocytes, Smooth Muscle / cytology
  • Neovascularization, Physiologic*
  • Organ Specificity