Since atherosclerosis is characterized by endothelial damage, re-growth seems likely to be occurring in order to repair or replace injured cells. Angiogenic vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), a likely mediator of these events, acts on the endothelium via a specific receptor, Flt-1. We hypothesized that patients with different manifestations of atherosclerosis, and others with diabetes, would have altered plasma levels of VEGF and Flt-1 compared with healthy individuals. Accordingly, 70 patients with peripheral artery disease (PAD), 70 patients with coronary artery disease (CAD), and 70 age- and sex-matched healthy controls were recruited. We also recruited 14 patients with diabetes asymptomatic for atherosclerosis, 14 patients with diabetes and atherosclerosis, and 14 age- and sex-matched controls. VEGF and soluble Flt-1 (sFlt-1) were measured by ELISA. In the main study of PAD and CAD, VEGF was raised in both patient groups (P < 0.05) compared with the controls, but was not different between the patient groups. sFlt-1 was lower in patients with PAD (P < 0.05), but not in those with CAD, compared with the controls. VEGF was raised in the patients with diabetes plus atherosclerosis (P < 0.05), but not in the group with diabetes alone; levels of sFlt-1 were unaltered in both diabetes groups. Our data point to changes in plasma levels of VEGF and its receptor sFlt-1 in diabetes and atherosclerosis that may have relevance for therapy and angiogenesis in these conditions.

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