Endothelial Progenitor Cell Levels Predict Future Physical Function: An Exploratory Analysis From the VA Enhanced Fitness Study

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Abstract

Background.

Levels of circulating progenitor cells (CPCs) are depleted with aging and chronic injury and are associated with level of physical functioning; however, little is known about the correlation of CPCs with longer-term measures of physical capabilities. We sought to determine the association of CPCs with future levels of physical function and with changes in physical function over time.

Methods.

CPCs were measured in 117 participants with impaired glucose tolerance in the Enhanced Fitness clinical trial based on the cell surface markers CD34 and CD133 and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) activity at baseline, 3 months, and 12 months. Physical function was assessed using usual and rapid gait speed, 6-minute walk distance, chair stand time, and SF-36 physical functioning score and reassessed at 3 and 12 months after clinical intervention.

Results.

Higher baseline levels of CD133+, CD34+, CD133+CD34+, and ALDHbr were each highly predictive of faster gait speed and longer distance walked in 6 minutes at both 3 and 12 months. These associations remained robust after adjustment for age, body mass index, baseline covariates, and inflammation and were independent of interventions to improve physical fitness. Further, higher CPC levels predicted greater improvements in usual and rapid gait speed over 1 year.

Conclusions.

Baseline CPC levels are associated not only with baseline mobility but also with future physical function, including changes in gait speed. These findings suggest that CPC measurement may be useful as a marker of both current and future physiologic aging and functional decline.

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