• endothelial cell;
  • mesenchymal stem cells;
  • vasculogenesis

Summary.  Background:  Blood-derived endothelial progenitor cells (EPC) have been used to treat ischemic disease. However, the number of EPC that can be obtained from adult blood is limited.

Objective:  To characterize endothelial-like cells obtained from human bone marrow and determine their ability to stimulate new blood vessel formation in vivo.

Methods:  Mononuclear cells (MNC) were isolated from human bone marrow or umbilical cord blood and cultured in endothelial growth medium (EGM-2). Mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) were isolated from bone marrow and induced to differentiate into endothelial-like cells (MSCE), or adipocytes or osteocytes by growth in EGM-2, adipogenic or osteogenic medium.

Results:  Cells obtained by culturing bone marrow MNC in EGM-2 formed cord- or tube-like structures when grown on MatrigelTM and expressed several endothelial marker proteins. However, cell morphology and the profile of endothelial marker protein expression were different from those of cord blood-derived EPC (cbEPC). Cells with a similar phenotype were obtained by differentiation of MSC into MSCE, which was accompanied by an increase of endothelial marker proteins and a diminished capacity to differentiate into adipocytes. Subcutaneous implantation of MSCE in collagen plugs in non-obese diabetic-severe combined immunodeficient (NOD-SCID) mice resulted in formation of functional blood vessels that had incorporated the MSCE.

Conclusions:  Our results show that MSCE and cbEPC are different cell types. The formation of functional blood vessels by MSCE, combined with high yields and a reduced capacity to differentiate into other cell types compared with MSC, makes these cells potentially useful for autologous therapy of ischemic disease.