The angiogenic properties of mesenchymal stem/stromal cells and their therapeutic potential

Br Med Bull. 2013;108(1):25-53. doi: 10.1093/bmb/ldt031. Epub 2013 Oct 23.


Background: Blood vessel formation is fundamental to development, while its dysregulation can contribute to serious disease. Expectations are that hundreds of millions of individuals will benefit from therapeutic developments in vascular biology. MSCs are central to the three main vascular repair mechanisms.

Sources of data: Key recent published literature and

Areas of agreement: MSCs are heterogeneous, containing multi-lineage stem and partly differentiated progenitor cells, and are easily expandable ex vivo. There is no single marker defining native MSCs in vivo. Their phenotype is strongly determined by their specific microenvironment. Bone marrow MSCs have skeletal stem cell properties. Having a perivascular/vascular location, they contribute to vascular formation and function and might be harnessed to regenerate a blood supply to injured tissues.

Areas of controversy: These include MSC origin, phenotype and location in vivo and their ability to differentiate into functional cardiomyocytes and endothelial cells or act as vascular stem cells. In addition their efficacy, safety and potency in clinical trials in relation to cell source, dose, delivery route, passage and timing of administration, but probably even more on the local preconditioning and the mechanisms by which they exert their effects.

Growing points: Understanding the origin and the regenerative environment of MSCs, and manipulating their homing properties, proliferative ability and functionality through drug discovery and reprogramming strategies are important for their efficacy in vascular repair for regenerative medicine therapies and tissue engineering approaches.

Areas timely for developing research: Characterization of MSCs' in vivo origins and biological properties in relation to their localization within tissue niches, reprogramming strategies and newer imaging/bioengineering approaches.

Keywords: adventitial cells; angiogenesis; arteriogenesis; cancer; mesenchymal stem/stromal cells; pericytes; regenerative medicine; tissue engineering; transplantation; vasculogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Vessels / growth & development*
  • Bone Marrow Cells / cytology
  • Bone Marrow Transplantation / methods
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / therapy
  • Chemokines / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cell Transplantation*
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Microvessels / growth & development
  • Regenerative Medicine / methods*
  • Skin Diseases / therapy
  • Tissue Engineering / methods


  • Chemokines