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VEGF: once regarded as a specific angiogenic factor, now implicated in neuroprotection.

Storkebaum E., Lambrechts D., Carmeliet P.

Both blood vessels and nerves are guided to their target. Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)A is a key signal in the induction of vessel growth (a process termed angiogenesis). Though initial studies, now a decade ago, indicated that VEGF is an endothelial cell-specific factor, more recent findings revealed that VEGF also has direct effects on neural cells. Genetic studies showed that mice with reduced VEGF levels develop adult-onset motor neuron degeneration, reminiscent of the human neurodegenerative disorder amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Additional genetic studies confirmed that VEGF is a modifier of motor neuron degeneration in humans and in SOD1(G93A) mice--a model of ALS. Reduced VEGF levels may promote motor neuron degeneration by limiting neural tissue perfusion and VEGF-dependent neuroprotection. VEGF also affects neuron death after acute spinal cord or cerebral ischemia, and has also been implicated in other neurological disorders such as diabetic and ischemic neuropathy, nerve regeneration, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease and multiple sclerosis. These findings have raised growing interest in assessing the therapeutic potential of VEGF for neurodegenerative disorders.

Bioessays 26:943-954(2004) [PubMed] [Europe PMC]

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