Abstract 3679: A Population Study on Endothelial Progenitor Cells and Atherosclerosis
Background: Endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) number and functionality are assumed to reflect the endogenous vascular repair capacity with the EPC pool declining in higher ages and being exhausted by unfavorable life-style and risk factors. This intriguing and clinically highly relevant concept, however, has so far been derived from small case-control studies and patient series.
Methods and Results: In the population-based Bruneck Study EPC number and EPC-colony forming units (EPC-CFU) were assessed as part of the fourth follow-up evaluation (2005) in 571 and 542 subjects, respectively. It represents the largest evaluation in this field currently available and the first one representative of the general community. EPC number declined with age (p=0.013), was significantly lower in women (p=0.006) and higher in subjects on statin, hormone replacement or ACE inhibitor/angiotensin-receptor blockers, and correlated positively with moderate alcohol consumption. In a step forward multivariate linear regression analysis EPC number was independently related with SDF1 Î±, MMP-9, triglycerides, alcohol consumption, and Hba1c. EPC-CFU in turn was related to SDF1 Î± and diastolic blood pressure. Moreover, EPC number showed a significant positive association with the Framingham risk score (P=0.001). Finally, there was an inverse association between EPC number and common carotid artery intima-media thickness (p=0.02) and the carotid artery atherosclerosis score (p=0.059). Our population-based data confirm the decline of EPC number with advancing age and lend first epidemiological support to a role of SDF-1 Î± and MMP9 in EPC differentiation, mobilization and homing. We demonstrated a significant inverse association between EPC number and extent of carotid atherosclerosis even though this association was only of moderate strength and not entirely consistent in other vascular territories.
Conclusions: We provide the first evidence of relationship among EPCs, cytokines and atherosclerosis development in a large population study, indicating the role of EPCs in the process of vascular remodelling/atherosclerosis.