Reduction of maternal circulating endothelial progenitor cells in human pregnancies with intrauterine growth restriction

F. Calcaterra, A. Taddeo, E. Colombo, M. Cappelletti, A. Martinelli, S. Calabrese, D. Mavilio, I. Cetin, S. Della Bella

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction Circulating endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) may play a crucial role during pregnancy by sustaining adequate placentation and fetal growth. Unambiguous demonstration of EPC increase during pregnancy has been hampered so far by lack of standardized methods for EPC quantification. In this study we used the currently most accepted phenotype for EPC detection for investigating whether maternal circulating EPCs might increase during normal pregnancy and whether they may fail to increase in pregnancy complicated by idiopathic intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR), a leading cause of perinatal mortality and morbidity characterized by insufficient placental perfusion. Methods Twenty-one non-pregnant women, 44 women during healthy pregnancy progression (9, 13 and 22 women in the first, second and third trimester, respectively) and 11 with pregnancy complicated by idiopathic IUGR were recruited in a cross-sectional study. EPCs in maternal blood were identified as CD45dim/CD34+/KDR+ cells by flow cytometry. Plasmatic cytokines were measured by ELISA. Results We observed a significant and progressive increase of EPCs in normal pregnancy, yet detectable in early pregnancy but even more pronounced in the third trimester. The increase of EPCs was impaired in IUGR-complicated pregnancies at comparable gestational age. The circulating levels of placental growth-factor and stromal-derived-factor-1 were significantly lower in IUGR than normal pregnancies, possibly contributing to EPC impairment. Conclusions EPC count in maternal circulation may have a great potential as a novel biomarker for pregnancy monitoring and may represent the target of novel therapeutic strategies designed to prevent adverse pregnancy outcomes often occurring in IUGR.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)431-436
Number of pages6
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Endothelial progenitor cells
  • Human pregnancy
  • Intrauterine growth restriction
  • Placental growth factor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Developmental Biology
  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology
  • Medicine(all)


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