With stem cells that can be differentiated into vascular cells, conquering the treatment of vascular diseases is one step closer.

– Generation of vascular progenitor cells by direct conversion technology

– When vascular progenitor cells are transplanted into an ischemic hindlimb model, an animal model of vascular disease, blood flow is restored by regenerating blood vessels at the transplanted site.



The research team led by Professor Jeong Beom Kim of the Life Science Department at UNIST has put the possibility of developing vascular cell therapy into the visible field by producing vascular progenitor cells that are effective in recovering blood flow.

Vascular progenitor cells (VPCs), which are able to differentiate into both endothelial cells and smooth muscle cells, have the potential for treatment of ischemic diseases. Generated by pluripotent stem cells, VPCs carry the risk of tumorigenicity in clinical application. This issue could be resolved by direct lineage conversion, the induction of functional cells from another lineage by using only lineage-restricted transcription factors. Here, we show that induced VPCs (iVPCs) can be generated from fibroblasts by direct conversion technology. Transplantation of iVPCs into the ischemic hindlimb model enhanced blood flow without tumor formation in vivo. We demonstrate that ischemic disease curable iVPCs, which have self-renewal and bipotency, can be generated from mouse fibroblasts by enforced ETS family transcription factors, Etv2 and Fli1 expression. Our simple strategy opens insights into stem cell–based ischemic disease therapy.

The findings of this study have been published in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology on March 25, 2020. This has been supported by the Ministry of Science & ICT and the Ministry of SMEs and Startups. It was also co-developed with Prof. Kim’s start-up company, Supine therapeutics.