The Differentiation of Pluripotent Stem Cells towards Endothelial Progenitor Cells - Potential Application in Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension

Int J Stem Cells. 2022 May 30;15(2):122-135. doi: 10.15283/ijsc21044.


Background and objectives: Endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) and endothelial cells (ECs) have been applied in the clinic to treat pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), a disease characterized by disordered pulmonary vasculature. However, the lack of sufficient transplantable cells before the deterioration of disease condition is a current limitation to apply cell therapy in patients. It is necessary to differentiate pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) into EPCs and identify their characteristics.

Methods and results: Comparing previously reported methods of human PSCs-derived ECs, we optimized a highly efficient differentiation protocol to obtain cells that match the phenotype of isolated EPCs from healthy donors. The protocol is compatible with chemically defined medium (CDM), it could produce a large number of clinically applicable cells with low cost. Moreover, we also found PSCs-derived EPCs express CD133, have some characteristics of mesenchymal stem cells and are capable of homing to repair blood vessels in zebrafish xenograft assays. In addition, we further revealed that IPAH PSCs-derived EPCs have higher expression of proliferation-related genes and lower expression of immune-related genes than normal EPCs and PSCs-derived EPCs through microarray analysis.

Conclusions: In conclusion, we optimized a highly efficient differentiation protocol to obtain PSCs-derived EPCs with the phenotypic and molecular characteristics of EPCs from healthy donors which distinguished them from EPCs from PAH.

Keywords: Endothelial cell; Endothelial progenitor cell; Pulmonary arterial hypertension; Stem cell differentiation.