Towards the therapeutic use of vascular smooth muscle progenitor cells.
ABSTRACT Recent advances in the development of alternative proangiogenic and revascularization processes, including recombinant protein delivery, gene therapy, and cell therapy, hold the promise of greater efficacy in the management of cardiovascular disease in the coming years. In particular, vascular progenitor cell-based strategies have emerged as an efficient treatment approach to promote vessel formation and repair and to improve tissue perfusion. During the past decade, considerable progress has been achieved in understanding therapeutic properties of endothelial progenitor cells, while the therapeutic potential of vascular smooth muscle progenitor cells (SMPC) has only recently been explored; the number of the circulating SMPC being correlated with cardiovascular health. Several endogenous SMPC populations with varying phenotypes have been identified and characterized in the peripheral blood, bone marrow, and vascular wall. While the phenotypic entity of vascular SMPC is not fully defined and remains an evolving area of research, SMPC are increasingly recognized to play a special role in cardiovascular biology. In this review, we describe the current approaches used to define vascular SMPC. We further summarize the data on phenotype and functional properties of SMPC from various sources in adults. Finally, we discuss the role of SMPC in cardiovascular disease, including the contribution of SMPC to intimal proliferation, angiogenesis, and atherosclerotic plaque instability as well as the benefits resulting from the therapeutic use of SMPC.