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J Exp Med. 2002 Sep 16;196(6):719-30.

Lymphangiogenic gene therapy with minimal blood vascular side effects.

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Molecular/Cancer Biology Laboratory and Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, Biomedicum Helsinki, Helsinki University Central Hospital, University of Helsinki, Finland.


Recent work from many laboratories has demonstrated that the vascular endothelial growth factor-C/VEGF-D/VEGFR-3 signaling pathway is crucial for lymphangiogenesis, and that mutations of the Vegfr3 gene are associated with hereditary lymphedema. Furthermore, VEGF-C gene transfer to the skin of mice with lymphedema induced a regeneration of the cutaneous lymphatic vessel network. However, as is the case with VEGF, high levels of VEGF-C cause blood vessel growth and leakiness, resulting in tissue edema. To avoid these blood vascular side effects of VEGF-C, we constructed a viral vector for a VEGFR-3-specific mutant form of VEGF-C (VEGF-C156S) for lymphedema gene therapy. We demonstrate that VEGF-C156S potently induces lymphangiogenesis in transgenic mouse embryos, and when applied via viral gene transfer, in normal and lymphedema mice. Importantly, adenoviral VEGF-C156S lacked the blood vascular side effects of VEGF and VEGF-C adenoviruses. In particular, in the lymphedema mice functional cutaneous lymphatic vessels of normal caliber and morphology were detected after long-term expression of VEGF-C156S via an adeno associated virus. These results have important implications for the development of gene therapy for human lymphedema.

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