New blood vessel formation in adults was considered to result exclusively from sprouting of preexisting endothelial cells, a process referred to angiogenesis. Vasculogenesis, the formation of new blood vessels from endothelial progenitor cells, was thought to occur only during embryonic life. Discovery of adult endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) in 1997 opened the door for cell therapy in vascular disease. Endothelial progenitor cells contribute to vascular repair and are now well established as postnatal vasculogenic cells in humans. It is now admitted that endothelial colony-forming cells (ECFCs) are the vasculogenic subtype. ECFCs could be used as a cell therapy product and also as a liquid biopsy in several vascular diseases or as vector for gene therapy. However, despite a huge interest in these cells, their tissue and molecular origin is still unclear. We recently proposed that endothelial progenitor could come from very small embryonic-like stem cells (VSELs) isolated in human from CD133 positive cells. VSELs are small dormant stem cells related to migratory primordial germ cells. They have been described in bone marrow and other organs. This chapter discusses the reported findings from in vitro data and also preclinical studies that aimed to explore stem cells at the origin of vasculogenesis in human and then explore the potential use of ECFCs to promote newly formed vessels or serve as liquid biopsy to understand vascular pathophysiology and in particular pulmonary disease and haemostasis disorders.
Keywords: ECFC; Endothelial progenitor cells; Extracellular vesicles; Haemostasis and thrombosis; Liquid biopsy; Pulmonary vascular disease; VSEL; Very small embryonic-like stem cells.