Peripheral artery disease is characterized by reduced blood flow to the lower limb, resulting in chronic ischemia in these muscles, which can lead to eventual amputation of the affected limb. Stimulation of angiogenesis in the ischemic region would be of therapeutic benefit; however, attempts to increase angiogenesis through delivery of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) largely have been unsuccessful. Recent studies have shown that VEGF signaling through its receptors, VEGFR1 and VEGFR2, is much more complex than previously appreciated. This review will examine current research into the function of VEGFR1 and -2 signaling pathways, and evidence of cross-talk between these two receptors. The potential impact of endothelial cell co-stimulation via other growth factors/cell surface receptors (such as angiopoietins and ephrins) on angiogenesis also will be discussed. Evidence suggesting deficiencies in VEGF pathway signaling in individuals with chronic ischemia and diabetes will be discussed. Numerous pro-angiogenic therapies for ischemia have been employed. The successes and limitations of these therapies will be illustrated, emphasizing more recent angiogenesis therapies that focus on activating co-ordinated patterns of pro-angiogenic genes as the most promising direction in the treatment of ischemic muscle tissue in peripheral artery disease.
Keywords: Angiogenesis, VEGF signaling, VEGF receptors, ischemia, diabetes, therapies
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