Endothelial dysfunction or loss is the early event that leads to a host of severe cardiovascular diseases, such as atherosclerosis, hypertension, brain stroke, myocardial infarction, and peripheral artery disease. Ageing is regarded among the most detrimental risk factor for vascular endothelium and predisposes the subject to atheroscleorosis and inflammatory states even in absence of traditional comorbid conditions. Standard treatment to restore blood perfusion through stenotic arteries are surgical or endovascular revascularization. Unfortunately, ageing patients are not the most amenable candidates for such interventions, due to high operative risk or unfavourable vascular involvement. It has recently been suggested that the transplantation of autologous bone marrow-derived endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) might constitute an alternative and viable therapeutic option for these individuals. Albeit pre-clinical studies demonstrated the feasibility of EPC-based therapy to recapitulate the diseased vasculature of young and healthy animals, clinical studies provided less impressive results in old ischemic human patients. One hurdle associated to this kind of approach is the senescence of autologous EPCs, which are less abundant in peripheral blood and display a reduced pro-angiogenic activity. Conversely, umbilical cord blood (UCB)-derived EPCs are more suitable for cellular therapeutics due to their higher frequency and sensitivity to growth factors, such as vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). An increase in intracellular Ca2+concentration is central to EPC activation by VEGF. We have recently demonstrated that the Ca 2+signalling machinery driving the oscillatory Ca 2+response to this important growth factor is different in UCB-derived EPCs as compared to their peripheral counterparts. In particular, we focussed on the so-called endothelial colony forming cells (ECFCs), which are the only EPC population belonging to the endothelial lineage and able to form capillary-like structures in vitro and stably integrate with host vasculature in vivo. The present review provides a brief description of how exploiting the Ca2+toolkit of juvenile EPCs to restore the repairative phenotype of senescent EPCs to enhance their regenerative outcome in therapeutic settings.
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