Angiogenesis is the physiological process through which new blood vessels form from pre-existing vessels. This is distinct from vasculogenesis, which is the de novo formation of endothelial cells from mesoderm cell precursors. The first vessels in the developing embryo form through vasculogenesis, after which angiogenesis is responsible for most, if not all, blood vessel growth during development and in disease. Angiogenesis is a normal and vital process in growth and development, as well as in wound healing and in the formation of granulation tissue.
Angiogenesis as a therapeutic target
Angiogenesis may be a target for combating diseases characterized by either poor vascularisation or abnormal vasculature. Application of specific compounds that may inhibit or induce the creation of new blood vessels in the body may help combat such diseases. The presence of blood vessels where there should be none may affect the mechanical properties of a tissue, increasing the likelihood of failure. The absence of blood vessels in a repairing or otherwise metabolically active tissue may inhibit repair or other essential functions. Several diseases, such as ischemic chronic wounds, are the result of failure or insufficient blood vessel formation and may be treated by a local expansion of blood vessels, thus bringing new nutrients to the site, facilitating repair. Other diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration, may be created by a local expansion of blood vessels, interfering with normal physiological processes.
The modern clinical application of the principle of angiogenesis can be divided into two main areas: anti-angiogenic therapies, which angiogenic research began with, and pro-angiogenic therapies. Whereas anti-angiogenic therapies are being employed to fight cancer and malignancies, which require an abundance of oxygen and nutrients to proliferate, pro-angiogenic therapies are being explored as options to treat cardiovascular diseases, the number one cause of death in the Western world. One of the first applications of pro-angiogenic methods in humans was a German trial using fibroblast growth factor 1 (FGF-1) for the treatment of coronary artery disease.
Angiogenesis for cardiovascular disease
Angiogenesis represents an excellent therapeutic target for the treatment of cardiovascular disease. It is a potent, physiological process that underlies the natural manner in which our bodies respond to a diminution of blood supply to vital organs, namely the production of new collateral vessels to overcome the ischemic insult. A large number of preclinical studies have been performed with protein-, gene- and cell-based therapies in animal models of cardiac ischemia, as well as models of peripheral artery disease. Reproducible and credible successes in these early animal studies led to high enthusiasm that this new therapeutic approach could be rapidly translated to a clinical benefit for millions of patients in the Western world suffering from these disorders.
Exercise & its relation to Angiogenesis
Angiogenesis is generally associated with aerobic exercise and endurance exercise. While arteriogenesis produces network changes that allow for a large increase in the amount of total flow in a network, angiogenesis causes changes that allow for greater nutrient delivery over a long period of time. Capillaries are designed to provide maximum nutrient delivery efficiency, so an increase in the number of capillaries allows the network to deliver more nutrients in the same amount of time. A greater number of capillaries also allows for greater oxygen exchange in the network. This is vitally important to endurance training, because it allows a person to continue training for an extended period of time. However, no experimental evidence suggests that increased capillarity is required in endurance exercise to increase the maximum oxygen delivery.