Gastrointestinal (GI) ulcers are essentially internal wounds that resist normal healing processes. Since their pathogenesis is poorly understood, and the etiologic (e.g., gastric acid, aspirin-like drugs, stress) and aggravating factors (e.g., H. pylori) are not well characterized, the remaining therapeutic option is to accelerate healing. Superficial mucosal lesions, i.e., erosions usually heal by epithelial regeneration and restitution, but when ulcers involve the muscularis propria, smooth muscle cells do not divide/regenerate. These deep lesions are filled by granulation tissue, i.e., angiogenesis followed by proliferation of connective tissue fibroblasts that deposit collagen over which adjacent surviving and dividing epithelial cells migrate to complete the healing. Our laboratory was the first to postulate that stimulation of angiogenesis alone might be sufficient to accelerate ulcer healing in the GI tract. Indeed, daily treatment of rats with bFGF, PDGF or VEGF markedly improved the healing of cysteamine-induced chronic duodenal ulcers, without any reduction in gastric acid secretion. These results were reproduced by a single dose of gene therapy with adenoviral vectors encoding PDGF or VEGF genes. The molar potency of angiogenic growth factors was 2-7 million times better than the antiulcerogenic effect of antisecretory H2 antagonists. Since histologically & pathologically gastroduodenal ulcers look similar to ulcers in the lower GI tract, we also predicted that the healing of experimental ulcerative colitis might be also improved by these angiogenic growth factors. Rectal enemas containing bFGF or PDGF indeed accelerated the healing of chemically induced ulcerative colitis in rats. VEGF, also known as VPF (vascular permeability factor), however, had no effect or slightly aggravated the colonic lesions. Injection of anti-VEGF neutralizing antibodies, however, counteracted the increased vascular permeability in the early stages of experimental ulcerative colitis and subsequently decreased the number of inflammatory cells in colonic ulcers in rats, resulting in significantly improved healing in the lower GI tract lesions. Thus, the three angiogenic growth factors tested exerted beneficial effect on gastroduodenal ulcers, and rectal enemas with bFGF or PDGF also accelerated the healing of experimental ulcerative colitis. Surprisingly, we achieved the latter effect with anti-VEGF antibodies, most likely because of the pro-inflammatory actions of VEGF in the pathogenesis of ulcerative colitis.
Keywords: Gastrointestinal ulcers, gastric ulcer, duodenal ulcer, ulcerative colitis, bFGF, PDGF, VEGF, angiogenesis, gene therapy, ulcer healing, Gastrointestinal, pathogenesis, muscularis, gastric acid, mucosal lesions, granulation, cysteamine, colitis, fibroblasts, idiopathic, fistulas, carcinomas, gastroduodenal, hyperacidity, lansoprazoic
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