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Nat Rev Neurol. 2016 Aug;12(8):439-54. doi: 10.1038/nrneurol.2016.88. Epub 2016 Jul 1.

Vascular endothelial growth factor: a neurovascular target in neurological diseases.

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Laboratory of Angiogenesis and Vascular Metabolism, Vesalius Research Center, Department of Oncology (KU Leuven) and Vesalius Research Center (VIB), Campus Gasthuisberg O&N4, Herestraat 49 - 912, B-3000, Leuven, Belgium.
Molecular Neurogenetics Laboratory, Max Planck Institute for Molecular Biomedicine, Roentgenstrasse 20, D-48149 Muenster, Germany.
Faculty of Medicine, University of Muenster, Roentgenstrasse 20, D-48149 Muenster, Germany.
Biochemistry Center, Heidelberg University, Heidelberg, D-69120, Germany.


Brain function critically relies on blood vessels to supply oxygen and nutrients, to establish a barrier for neurotoxic substances, and to clear waste products. The archetypal vascular endothelial growth factor, VEGF, arose in evolution as a signal affecting neural cells, but was later co-opted by blood vessels to regulate vascular function. Consequently, VEGF represents an attractive target to modulate brain function at the neurovascular interface. On the one hand, VEGF is neuroprotective, through direct effects on neural cells and their progenitors and indirect effects on brain perfusion. In accordance, preclinical studies show beneficial effects of VEGF administration in neurodegenerative diseases, peripheral neuropathies and epilepsy. On the other hand, pathologically elevated VEGF levels enhance vessel permeability and leakage, and disrupt blood-brain barrier integrity, as in demyelinating diseases, for which blockade of VEGF may be beneficial. Here, we summarize current knowledge on the role and therapeutic potential of VEGF in neurological diseases.

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