OBJECTIVE(S): The eventual role of blood pressure on the endothelial progenitor cell (EPC) has rarely been evaluated and data collected so far relate to patients with co-existing coronary heart disease. METHODS: We have studied the number and functional activity of EPC as well as the number of EPC endothelial colony-forming units (CFU) in a carefully selected group of 36 patients with essential hypertension and 24 normotensive control subjects. RESULTS: In patients with essential hypertension, the EPC number was not statistically different from that found in control subjects (mean +/- SD, essential hypertension 58 +/- 29, controls 53 +/- 20; EPC/high power field). CFU per well were not statistically different in patients with essential hypertension compared with normotensive controls (mean +/- SD, patients with essential hypertension 2.4 +/- 2.6, normotensive controls 3 +/- 3.3 CFU/well). In essential hypertension patients, the EPC number was inversely correlated with both total (R=0.635, P < 0.0001) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL)-cholesterol (R=0.486, P < 0.05). Neither the EPC number nor the EPC CFU were correlated with age, systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, body mass index, lipoprotein(a), high-sensitivity C-reactive protein or homocysteine. CONCLUSIONS: The present study shows that essential hypertension is not characterized by the altered number or functional activity of EPC. Plasma total and LDL-cholesterol are independent predictors of reduced numbers of circulating EPC in essential hypertension patients. The absence of any correlation between the characteristics of EPC and several markers predictive of cardiovascular damage merits further investigation.
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