Endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) ensure vascular integrity and neovascularization. No studies have investigated EPCs in preterm-born children beyond infancy.
One hundred and thirty-six prepubertal children were enrolled: 63 preterm and 73 born at term (controls). Circulating CD34(+)/VEGFR-2(+)/CD45(-) and CD34(+)/VEGFR-2(+)/CD45dim EPCs were measured in preterm-born children compared to controls. Body mass index (BMI), waist-to-hip ratio (WHR), neck circumference, systolic and diastolic blood pressure (SBP and DBP, respectively), fasting glucose, insulin, lipid profile, common carotid and abdominal aortic intima-media thickness (cIMT and aIMT, respectively), endothelium-dependent brachial artery flow-mediated dilation (FMD), and echocardiographic parameters were also assessed.
Circulating CD34(+)/VEGFR-2(+)/CD45(-) and CD34(+)/VEGFR-2(+)/CD45dim EPCs were significantly higher in preterm-born children compared to controls (p < 0.001 and p < 0.001, respectively). In total study population and in the preterm-born group, EPCs were significantly lower in children born to mothers with gestational diabetes compared to non-diabetic mothers. Prematurity was associated with higher WHR, neck circumference, SBP, DBP, cIMT, aIMT, mean pressure, and velocity of pulmonary artery; the peak velocity of the brachial artery was significantly lower in children born prematurely. In multiple regression analysis, preterm birth and maternal gestational diabetes were recognized as independent predictors of EPCs.
Circulating EPCs were increased in prepubertal preterm-born children in comparison with peers born full term. Maternal gestational diabetes was associated with a decrease in EPCs.
Mounting evidence supports the adverse effect of prematurity on cardiovascular health. However, the underlying mechanisms that could lead to endothelial dysfunction in preterm-born individuals are not fully understood.Endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) ensure vascular integrity, normal endothelial function, and neovascularization.No studies have investigated the EPCs counts in peripheral blood beyond infancy in children born prematurely.Circulating EPCs were significantly higher in preterm-born prepubertal children compared to controls, thus indicating that prematurity is possibly associated with endothelial damage.In total study population and in the preterm-born group, maternal gestational diabetes was associated with decreased EPC concentrations.