Midkine (MK) is a heparin-binding cytokine, and promotes growth, survival, migration and other activities of target cells. After describing the general properties of MK, this review focuses on MK and MK inhibitors as therapeutics for diseases in the central nervous system. MK is strongly expressed during embryogenesis especially at the midgestation period, but is expressed only at restricted sites in adults. MK expression is induced upon tissue injury such as ischemic brain damage. Since exogenously administered MK or the gene transfer of MK suppresses neuronal cell death in experimental systems, MK has the potential to treat cerebral infarction. MK might become important also in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimers disease. MK is involved in inflammatory diseases by enhancing migration of leukocytes, inducing chemokine production and suppressing regulatory T cells. Since an aptamer to MK suppresses experimental autoimmune encephalitis, MK inhibitors are promising for the treatment of multiple sclerosis. MK is overexpressed in most malignant tumors including glioblastoma, and is involved in tumor invasion. MK inhibitors may be of value in the treatment of glioblastoma. Furthermore, an oncolytic adenovirus, whose replication is under the control of the MK promoter, inhibits the growth of glioblastoma xenografts. MK inhibitors under development include antibodies, aptamers, glycosaminoglycans, peptides and low molecular weight compounds. siRNA and antisense oligoDNA have proved effective against malignant tumors and inflammatory diseases in experimental systems. Practical information concerning the development of MK and MK inhibitors as therapeutics is described in the final part of the review.
Keywords: Alzheimer's disease, Cerebral infarction, Drug discovery, Glioblastoma, Ischemia, Midkine, Multiple sclerosis, Neurodegenerative diseases