What is Angiogenesis?

Angiogenesis, the growth of new blood vessels in the body, is an important natural process in the body used for healing (tissue-repair) and reproduction. The body controls angiogenesis by producing a precise balance of growth and inhibitory factors in healthy tissues. When this balance is disturbed, the result is either too much or too little angiogenesis. Abnormal blood vessel growth is now recognized as a “common denominator” underlying many deadly and debilitating conditions, including cancer, skin diseases (psoriasis), age-related blindness (wet age-related macular degeneration & diabetic retinopathy), diabetic ulcers, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and many others. The list of diseases that have angiogenesis as an underlying mechanism grows longer every year.

Angiogenesis' Wide Reaching Effects

In many serious diseases states, the body loses control over angiogenesis. Angiogenesis-dependent diseases result when new blood vessels either grow excessively or insufficiently.

Excessive angiogenesis:

- Occurs in diseases such as cancer, diabetic blindness, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and more than 70 other conditions.

- In these abnormal conditions, new blood vessels feed diseased tissues and destroy normal tissues. In the case of cancer, the leaky new vessels allow tumor cells to escape into the circulation and lodge in other organs (tumor metastasis). In wet AMD or proliferative diabetic retinopathy (P-DR), the leaky new vessels leak blood and other fluids into the macular area or near-by causing inflammation and damage to the neural tissue resulting in loss of vision.

- Excessive angiogenesis occurs when diseased cells produce excess amounts of angiogenic growth factors, overwhelming the effects of natural angiogenesis inhibitors.

- Anti-angiogenic therapies, aimed at halting new blood vessel growth, are used to treat these conditions.

Insufficient angiogenesis:

- Occurs in diseases such as coronary artery disease, stroke, diabetic foot ulcer and chronic wounds.

- In these conditions, blood vessel growth is inadequate, and circulation is not properly restored, leading to the risk of tissue death.

-Insufficient angiogenesis occurs when tissues cannot produce adequate amounts of angiogenic growth factors.

- Therapeutic angiogenesis, aimed at stimulating new blood vessel growth with growth factors, is being developed to treat these conditions.

Angiogenesis is a disease common denominator

Angiogenesis, the growth of new blood vessels, is a "common denominator" shared by diseases affecting more than one billion people worldwide. This includes all cancers, cardiovascular disease, blindness, arthritis, complications of AIDS, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, and more than 70 other major health conditions affecting children and adults in developed and developing nations. Our vision is that angiogenesis-based therapies are a unifying approach to disease and will have the same impact in the 21st century that antibiotics had in the 20th century.

How can Angiogenesis-based Treatments Help?

The use of Angiogenesis-based therapeutics is a new, comprehensive approach to fighting disease. By using new medical treatments that either inhibit or stimulate angiogenesis, doctors are prolonging the lives of cancer patients, preventing limb amputations, blocking vision loss, and improving general health.

All cancerous tumors, for example, release angiogenic growth factor proteins that stimulate blood vessels to grow into the tumor, providing it with oxygen and nutrients. Antiangiogenic therapies literally starve the tumor of its blood supply by interfering with this process. A new class of cancer treatments that block angiogenesis are now approved and available to treat cancers of the colon, kidney, lung, breast, and liver, as well as multiple myeloma and bone gastrointestinal stromal tumors. Some older drugs have been rediscovered to block angiogenesis, as well. These are being used to treatment angiogenesis-dependent conditions, such as hemangiomas, colon polyps, and precancerous skin lesions.

Therapeutic angiogenesis, in contrast, stimulates angiogenesis where it is required but lacking. This technique is used to replenish the blood supply to chronic wounds to speed healing, and it prevents unnecessary amputations. New research suggests this approach can be also used to save limbs afflicted with poor circulation, and even oxygen-starved hearts. Therapeutic angiogenesis may even help to regenerate damaged or lost tissues in ways that were previously considered impossible, such as with nerves and brain tissue.