Objective: To review the human and veterinary literature on the role of the vascular endothelial cell in health, as well as during hypoxic and inflammatory disease states.
Data sources: Data from human and veterinary literature were reviewed through a Pubmed search and a manual search of the references listed in articles covering some aspect of vascular endothelial cell function.
Human data synthesis: The development of techniques that allow the maintenance and growth of endothelial cells in culture has produced an explosion of new research in the area of endothelial cell physiology. This plethora of data has revealed the critical role that vascular endothelial cells play in both health and disease states. Interspecies variations can occur with respect to the vascular endothelial cell physiology and its response to pathologic conditions.
Veterinary data synthesis: There is a paucity of information regarding the role of the vascular endothelial cell in health or disease of small animals. Many human studies use species cared for by veterinarians, providing information that may be applied to small animals and that may be used to construct future studies.
Conclusion: An organ system itself, the vascular endothelium is an essential component of all organs in the body. The endothelial cell lining functions to maintain selective permeability between the blood and the tissue it supplies, regulate vascular tone, sustain blood fluidity through regulation of coagulation, and modulate interaction of leukocytes with the interstitium and inflammatory reactions. During disease states, the endothelial cell functions locally to limit the boundaries of the disease process. If these functions are not controlled, they can become a part of the pathogenic process, contributing to blood stasis and thrombosis, potentiation of local inflammation and interstitial edema formation, subsequent tissue hypoxia, and multiple organ dysfunction. Pharmacological investigations targeting the modulation of endothelial function during disease states have not yet advanced treatment protocols. Since all critically ill animals are at risk for some degree of endothelial cell dysfunction, treatment regimens should focus on promoting capillary blood flow and tissue oxygen delivery.