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Role of progenitor cells in biology and treatment of atherosclerosis

Final Activity Report Summary - PROGENITOR (Role of Progenitor Cells in biology and treatment of atherosclerosis)

This study identifies a unique progenitor (precursor) cell in the bone marrow of rodents which we have since also isolated from human subjects. The cell has the capacity for unlimited self-renewal and has several characteristics that mark it as a stem cell. It can change into a smooth muscle cell which is the major cell constituent of blood vessels throughout the body. Therefore in the adult this cell is likely to be very important in terms of the biology of the vascular system (blood vessels).

We have identified in this study that this smooth muscle stem cell comes out of the marrow and into the bloodstream when the vessel wall is injured. Indeed this occurs early after injury and subsequently the stem cell participates in the cell changes that occur in the injured vessel. We have shown that if a sufficient number of these cells implant in the injured vessel that narrowing of the artery occurs which may have implications for human patients with vascular disease. The identification of this cell in blood may be a marker for disease extent and activity. Future studies will aim at developing a diagnostic test to detect this unique cell and correlate this assay with vascular disease in humans.