Circulating Progenitor Cells Correlate with Memory, Posterior Cortical Thickness, and Hippocampal Perfusion

Daniel A. Nation, Alick Tan, Shubir Dutt, Elissa C. McIntosh, Belinda Yew, Jean K. Ho, Anna E. Blanken, Jung Yun Jang, Kathleen E. Rodgers, Aimée Gaubert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Background: Bone marrow-derived progenitor cells survey the vasculature and home to sites of tissue injury where they can promote repair and regeneration. It has been hypothesized that these cells may play a protective role neurodegenerative and vascular cognitive impairment. Objective: To evaluate progenitor cell levels in older adults with and without mild cognitive impairment (MCI), and to relate circulating levels to memory, brain volume, white matter lesion volume, and cerebral perfusion. Method: Thirty-two older adults, free of stroke and cardiovascular disease, were recruited from the community and evaluated for diagnosis of MCI versus cognitively normal (CN). Participants underwent brain MRI and blood samples were taken to quantify progenitor reserve using flow cytometry (CD34+, CD34+CD133+, and CD34+CD133+CD309+ cells). Results: Participants with MCI (n = 10) exhibited depletion of all CPC markers relative to those who were CN (n = 22), after controlling for age, sex, and education. Post-hoc age, sex, and education matched comparisons (n = 10 MCI, n = 10 CN) also revealed the same pattern of results. Depletion of CD34+ cells correlated with memory performance, left posterior cortical thickness, and bilateral hippocampal perfusion. Participants exhibited low levels of vascular risk and white matter lesion burden that did not correlate with progenitor levels. Conclusions: Circulating progenitor cells are associated with cognitive impairment, memory, cortical atrophy, and hippocampal perfusion.We hypothesize that progenitor depletion contributes to, or is triggered by, cognitive decline and cortical atrophy. Further study of progenitor cell depletion in older adults may benefit efforts to prevent or delay dementia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-101
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Alzheimer's Disease
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Atrophy
  • cognitive dysfunction
  • memory
  • perfusion
  • stem cells


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