Increased haematopoietic activity in patients with atherosclerosis

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Experimental work posits that acute ischaemic events trigger haematopoietic activity, driving monocytosis, and atherogenesis. Considering the chronic low-grade inflammatory state in atherosclerosis, we hypothesized that haematopoietic hyperactivity is a persistent feature in cardiovascular disease (CVD). Therefore, we aimed to assess the activity of haematopoietic organs and haematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPCs) in humans.

Methods and results

First, we performed 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomographic (18F-FDG PET) imaging in 26 patients with stable atherosclerotic CVD (ischaemic event >12 months ago), and 25 matched controls. In splenic tissue, 18F-FDG uptake was 2.68 ± 0.65 in CVD patients vs. 1.75 ± 0.54 in controls (1.6-fold higher; P< 0.001), and in bone marrow 3.20 ± 0.76 vs. 2.72 ± 0.46 (1.2-fold higher; P = 0.003), closely related to LDL cholesterol levels (LDLc, r = 0.72). Subsequently, we determined progenitor potential of HSPCs harvested from 18 patients with known atherosclerotic CVD and 30 matched controls; both groups were selected from a cohort of cancer patients undergoing autologous stem cell transplantation. In CVD patients, the normalized progenitor potential, expressed as the number of colony-forming units-granulocyte/monocyte (CFU-GM) colonies/CD34+ cell, was 1.6-fold higher compared with matched controls (P < 0.001). Finally, we assessed the effects of native and oxidized lipoproteins on HSPCs harvested from healthy donors in vitro. Haematopoietic stem and progenitor cells displayed a 1.5-fold increased CFU-GM capacity in co-culture with oxidized LDL in vitro (P = 0.002), which was inhibited by blocking oxidized phospholipids via E06 (P = 0.001).


Collectively, these findings strengthen the case for a chronically affected haematopoietic system, potentially driving the low-grade inflammatory state in patients with atherosclerosis.

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