What are the true origins of the smooth muscle cells (SMCs) present in the intimal lesions of transplant arteriosclerosis? A new study in the JCI shows that Sca-1+ cells purified from the mouse aortic root can migrate through an irradiated vein graft to the neointima of the vessel and transdifferentiate to express the early SMC differentiation marker gene SM22. Do Sca-1+ cells transdifferentiate into SMC-like cells, or is activation of SMC marker genes a consequence of fusion of these cells with preexisting SMCs, a possibility raised by results of studies of adult stem cells in animal models of liver regeneration ? Or could this be bona fide transdifferentiation that recapitulates the pathologic processes in humans?
Mark H. Hoofnagle, Brian R. Wamhoff, Gary K. Owens