Very small embryonic-like stem cells (VSELs) are major pluripotent stem cells involved in vascular and tissue regeneration and constitute a recruitable pool of stem/progenitor cells with putative instrumental role in organ repair. Here, we hypothesized that VSELs might be mobilized from the bone marrow (BM) to peripheral blood (PB) in patients with hypoxic lung disease or pulmonary hypertension (PH). The objective of the present study was then to investigate the changes in VSELs number in peripheral blood of patients with hypoxic lung disease and PH. We enrolled 26 patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) with or without hypoxemia, 13 patients with PH and 20 controls without any respiratory or cardiovascular diseases. In PH patients, VSELs levels have been determined during right heart catheterization in pulmonary blood and PB. For this purpose, mononuclear cells were separated by density gradient and VSELs have been quantified by using a multiparametric flow cytometry approach. The number of PB-VSELs in hypoxic COPD patients was significantly increased compared with non-hypoxic COPD patients or controls (p = 0.0055). In patients with PH, we did not find any difference in VSELs numbers between arterial pulmonary blood and venous PB (p = 0.93). However, we found an increase in VSELs in the peripheral blood of patients with PH (p = 0.03). In conclusion, we unraveled that circulating VSELs were increased in peripheral blood of patients with hypoxic COPD or with PH. Thus, VSELs may serve as a reservoir of pluripotent stem cells that can be recruited into PB and may play an important role in promoting lung repair.
- Progenitor cells
- Pulmonary hypertension
- Very small embryonic-like stem cells