Camille Girard-Bock, Université de Montréal
Supervisor: Anne Monique Nuyt, Université de Montréal
In Canada, 8% of births are preterm (< 37 weeks) and 1% occur < 29 weeks. Preterm born survivors are at increased risk for cardiovascular diseases. How this exactly happens remains unclear. Endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) come from the bone marrow and migrate to blood vessels where they participate in vascular (blood vessel) growth and repair. They are very important to maintain good vascular health. EPCs are decreased and poorly functioning in adults at risk for cardiovascular diseases. Factors known to affect EPCs are inflammation and oxidative stress. It is also recognized that preterm babies are exposed to inflammation and oxidative stress. Moreover, there is now evidence that EPCs from preterm neonates are impaired. Whether EPCs are still impaired in adulthood and could contribute to poor cardiovascular health needs to be proven. The goal of current study is to examine endothelial progenitor cells in relation to cardiovascular diseases risk factors and to examine their susceptibility to pro-inflammatory stimuli following preterm birth in human adults and following high oxygen (O2) exposure in a rat model mimicking conditions related to prematurity.
These studies aim to understand the specific mechanisms of vascular disease in preterm born individuals, a newly identified group at high risk of cardiovascular diseases in relatively young adult ages. Identification of markers of impaired vascular growth and repair capacity should allow targeted and specific cardiovascular diseases treatment and prevention strategies for this population. Ultimately our research program should promote special attention by primary care givers as well as tools for optimal management of the growing proportion of the population who was born preterm.