Clinical significance of endothelial progenitor cells in patients with liver cirrhosis with or without hepatocellular carcinoma


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Abstract

Background and objectiveThe role of endothelial progenitor cells in patients with cirrhosis has seldom been investigated. This study was conducted to assess the clinical significance of circulating endothelial progenitor cells in patients with liver cirrhosis with or without hepatocellular carcinoma.MethodsA blood sample was collected once from patients with cirrhosis alone (n = 34) or cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (n = 46) and healthy controls (n = 27) for assessing levels of endothelial progenitor cells and vascular endothelial growth factor. Blood cells staining positive for CD34/CD133/KDR using flow cytometry were characterized as endothelial progenitor cells. Plasma vascular endothelial growth factor was quantified by ELISA.ResultsThe levels of CD34/KDR-positive endothelial progenitor cells, CD133/KDR-positive endothelial progenitor cells, and vascular endothelial growth factor were higher in patients with cirrhosis ± hepatocellular carcinoma than in healthy controls (P = 0.017, P < 0.001 and P < 0.001, respectively). The levels of endothelial progenitor cells and vascular endothelial growth factor did not show statistical difference according to Child-Turcotte-Pugh class. There was a moderately significant correlation between vascular endothelial growth factor levels and hepatocellular carcinoma stage (ρ = 0.464, P = 0.001). Smoking, ascites, and portal vein thrombosis were independently related to lower levels of circulating CD34/KDR-positive endothelial progenitor cells, higher levels of CD133/KDR-positive endothelial progenitor cells, and higher levels of vascular endothelial growth factor, respectively (P = 0.041, P = 0.023, and P < 0.001, respectively).ConclusionCirculating endothelial progenitor cells and plasma vascular endothelial growth factor levels were higher in patients with liver cirrhosis ± hepatocellular carcinoma compared to healthy controls. The increase in endothelial progenitor cells and vascular endothelial growth factor may have a possible role in the development of complications, especially ascites and portal vein thrombosis, or in progression of hepatocellular carcinoma.

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