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In the course of new blood vessel formation, two different processes--vasculogenesis and angiogenesis--have to be distinguished. The term vasculogenesis describes the de novo emergence of a vascular network by endothelial progenitors, whereas angiogenesis corresponds to the generation of vessels by sprouting from pre-existing capillaries. Until recently, it was thought that vasculogenesis is restricted to the prenatal period. During the last decade, one of the most fascinating innovations in the field of vascular biology was the discovery of endothelial progenitor cells and vasculogenesis in the adult. This review aims at introducing the concept of adult vasculogenesis and discusses the efforts to identify and characterize adult endothelial progenitors. The different sources of adult endothelial progenitors like haematopoietic stem cells, myeloid cells, multipotent progenitors of the bone marrow, side population cells and tissue-residing pluripotent stem cells are considered. Moreover, a survey of cellular and molecular control mechanisms of vasculogenesis is presented. Recent advances in research on endothelial progenitors exert a strong impact on many different disciplines and provide the knowledge for functional concepts in basic fields like anatomy, histology as well as embryology.