The effect of estrogen on diabetic wound healing is mediated through increasing the function of various bone marrow-derived progenitor cells

Ying Zhuge, Manuela M. Regueiro, Runxia Tian, Yan Li, Xiaomei Xia, Roberto Vazquez-Padron, Sharon Elliot, Seth R. Thaller, Zhao Jun Liu, Omaida C. Velazquez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Objective: Endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) are the key cells of postnatal neovascularization, and mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) possess pluripotent differentiation capacity and contribute to tissue regeneration and wound healing. Both EPCs and MSCs are critical to the wound repair process, which is hindered in diabetes mellitus. Diabetes has been shown to decrease the function of these progenitor cells, whereas estrogen has beneficial wound healing effects. However, the role of estrogen in modulating EPC and MSC biology in diabetes is unknown. We investigated the effect of estrogen on improving bone marrow (BM)-derived EPC and MSC function using a murine diabetic wound healing model. Methods: Female diabetic db + /db + and nondiabetic control mice were wounded cutaneously and treated with topical estrogen or placebo cream. On day 5 after wounding, BM cells were harvested to quantify EPC number and colony-forming units of EPCs and MSCs. Wound healing rate was concurrently studied. Vessel density and scar density were then quantified using whole body perfusion and laser confocal microscopy. EPC recruitment was documented by immunohistochemistry to identify CD34- and vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 2-positive cells in the vessel wall. Data were analyzed by analysis of variance. Results: Topical estrogen significantly increased colony-forming units of both EPCs and MSCs compared with placebo treatment, indicating improved viability and proliferative ability of these cells. Consistently, increased recruitment of EPCs to diabetic wounds and higher vessel density were observed in estrogen-treated compared with placebo-treated mice. Consequently, topical estrogen significantly accelerated wound healing as early as day 6 after wounding. In addition, scar density resulting from collagen deposition was increased in the estrogen-treated group, reflecting increased MSC activity and differentiation. Conclusions: Estrogen treatment increases wound healing and wound neovascularization in diabetic mice. Our data implicate that these beneficial effects may be mediated through improving the function of BM-derived EPCs and MSCs. Clinical Relevance: This study reveals a novel mechanism for the beneficial effect of topical estrogen treatment on the improvement of diabetic wound healing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)127S-135S
JournalJournal of vascular surgery
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Diabetic wound healing
  • Endothelial progenitor cells
  • Estrogen
  • Mesenchymal stem cells
  • Neovascularization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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