Increasing evidence points to a role for circulating endothelial progenitor cells, including populations of CD34- and CD133-positive cells present in peripheral blood, in maintenance of the vasculature and neovascularization. Immature populations, including CD34-positive cells, have been shown to contribute to vascular homeostasis, not only as a pool of endothelial progenitor cells but also as a source of growth/angiogenesis factors at ischemic loci. We hypothesized that diminished numbers of circulating immature cells might impair such physiological and reparative processes, potentially contributing to cerebrovascular dysfunction.Methods and Results—
The level of circulating immature cells, CD34-, CD133-, CD117-, and CD135-positive cells, in patients with a history of atherothrombotic cerebral ischemic events was analyzed to assess possible correlations with the degree of carotid atherosclerosis and number of cerebral infarctions. There was a strong inverse correlation between numbers of circulating CD34- and CD133-positive cells and cerebral infarction. In contrast, there was no correlation between the degree of atherosclerosis and populations of circulating immature cells. Analysis of patients with cerebral artery occlusion revealed a significant positive correlation between circulating CD34- and CD133-positive cells and regional blood flow in areas of chronic hypoperfusion.Conclusions—
These results suggest a possible contribution of circulating CD34- and CD133-positive cells in maintenance of the cerebral circulation in settings of ischemic stress. Our data demonstrate the utility of a simple and precise method to quantify circulating CD34-positive cells, the latter providing a marker of cerebrovascular function.