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Clinicians regularly transplant omental pedicles to repair a wide variety of injured tissues, but the basic mechanism underlying this efficacious procedure is not understood. One possibility that has not been addressed is the ability of omentum to directly contribute regenerative cells to injured tissues. We hypothesized that if omental progenitor cells could be mobilized to incorporate into damaged tissue, the power of this therapy would be greatly expanded. Labelled omental grafts were transplanted into a murine carotid artery injury model. Selected grafts were treated with thymosin β4 (Tβ4) prior to transplantation to investigate the effects of chemical potentiation on healing. We found treatment of grafts with Tβ4-induced progenitor cells to fully integrate into the wall of injured vessels and differentiate into vascular smooth muscle. Myographic studies determined that arteries receiving Tβ4-stimulated grafts were functionally indistinguishable from uninjured controls. Concurrent in vitro analyses showed that Tβ4 promoted proliferation, migration and trans-differentiation of cells via AKT signalling. This study is the first to demonstrate that omentum can provide progenitor cells for repair, thus revealing a novel and naturally occurring source of vascular smooth muscle for use in cell-based therapies. Furthermore, our data show that this system can be optimized with inducing factors, highlighting a more powerful therapeutic potential than that of its current clinical application. This is a paradigm-setting concept that lays the foundation for the use of chemical genetics to enhance therapeutic outcomes in a myriad of fields.
Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.