Endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) are used for angiogenic therapies and as biomarkers of cardiovascular disease. Human umbilical cord blood (UCB) is a rich source of endothelial colony forming cells (ECFCs), which are EPCs with robust proliferative potential that may be useful for clinical vascular regeneration. Previous studies show that hematopoietic progenitor cells are increased in premature UCB compared with term controls. Based on this paradigm, we hypothesized that premature UCB would be an enriched source of ECFCs. Thirty-nine UCB samples were obtained from premature infants (24-37 wk gestational age (GA)) and term controls. ECFC colonies were enumerated, clonally isolated, and identified by expression of endothelial cell surface antigens and functional analysis. GA of 33-36 wk UCB yielded predominantly ECFC colonies at equivalent numbers to term infants. UCB from 24 to 28 wk GA infants had significantly fewer ECFCs. Surprisingly, 24-28 wk GA UCB yielded predominantly mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) colonies, capable of differentiating into adipocytes, chondrocytes, and osteocytes. MSCs were rarely identified in 37-40 wk GA UCB. These studies demonstrate that circulating MSCs and ECFCs appear at different GA in the human UCB, and that 24-28 wk GA UCB may be a novel source of MSCs for therapeutic use in human diseases.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health