Endothelial progenitor cells (EPC) are bone marrow derived cells with the potential to differentiate into mature functional endothelial cells. First clinical trials have been performed investigating the effects of EPC transplantation into cardiac ischemic areas after myocardial infarction, in patients with peripheral atherovascular disease or on endothelialisation of artificial heart valves. Next to EPC transplantation, the pharmacological mobilisation and functional modification of EPC may also play a major role in future therapies. Studies have raised the concern that patients with coronary heart disease or severe heart failure may suffer from decreased amounts and impaired function of peripheral circulating EPC. Drug induced mobilization of EPC and normalization of EPC function may therefore improve prognosis of certain cardiovascular diseases. The underlying molecular events of a disturbed mobilisation, differentiation, homing and/or function of EPC are not well understood. In the present review we will highlight the current knowledge of the role of EPC dysfunction in various cardiovascular diseases and focus on potential causally related molecular mechanisms, which might be novel drug targets.
Keywords: endothelial progenitor cells, statins, myocardial infarction, coronary artery disease, drug treatment, mobilisation, diabetes