There is a pressing need for new approaches to prevent stroke. Endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) promote vascular repair and revascularization in the ischemic brain. The present study sought to evaluate whether preventive delivery of EPCs could prevent or protect against stroke. Stroke-prone spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR-SP) received a single injection of EPCs, and their survival time was monitored. In addition, at 28 and/or 42 days after a single injection of EPCs, SHR-SP and mice were subjected to cerebral ischemia, and cerebral ischemic injury, local angiogenesis and in vivo EPC integration were determined. Other experiments examined the effects of EPC conditioned medium, and the distribution of donor EPCs taken from GFP transgenic mice. It was found that EPC-pretreated SHR-SP showed longer lifespans than untreated controls. A single preventive injection of EPCs could produce persistent protective effects against cerebral ischemic injury (lasting at least 42 days), and promote local angiogenesis in the ischemic brain, in two types of animals (SHR-SP and normotensive mice). EPCs of donor origin could be detected in the recipient peripheral blood, and integrated into the recipient ischemic brains. Furthermore, it was suggested that mouse EPCs might exert paracrine effects on cerebral ischemic injury in addition to their direct angiogenic effects. In conclusion, a single preventive injection of EPCs prolonged the lifespan of SHR-SP, and protected against cerebral ischemic injury for at least 7 weeks. It is implied that EPC injection might be a promising candidate for a preventive role in patients at high risk for stroke.

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