Arterial endothelial cells: still the craftsmen of regenerated endothelium.
ABSTRACT For more than a decade, a prevailing hypothesis in research related to arterial disease has been that circulating endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) provide protection by their innate ability to replace dysfunctional or damaged endothelium. This paradigm has led to extensive investigation of EPCs in the hope of finding therapeutic targets to control their homing and differentiation. However, from the very beginning, the nomenclature and the phenotype of EPCs have been subject to controversy and there are currently no specific markers that can unambiguously identify these cells. Moreover, many of the initial observations that EPCs differentiate to endothelial cells in the course of arterial disease have been criticized for methodological problems. The present review discusses the contrasting experimental evidence as to the role of EPCs in contributing to relining of the endothelium and highlights some of the methodological pitfalls and terminological ambiguities that confuse the field.