As the body grows and develops, a process called angiogenesis takes place in which blood vessels are created to transport blood throughout the body. The creation of blood vessels helps the body to heal and reproduce. Angiogenesis is typically regulated in the body by healthy tissue, through a careful regulation of growth and inhibitory factors. Angiogenesis therapies artificially increase the rate of blood vessel production causing the body to produce more blood vessels in order to facilitate and expedite the healing process.
The purpose of generating new blood vessels through therapeutic angiogenesis is to promote the growth of blood vessel in tissue they’re not typically found in or where they’re lacking, and to facilitate tissue repair. Chronic wounds, peripheral arterial disease and ischemic heart disease are the three primary conditions that benefit from angiogenesis therapies.
Prescription drugs that contain platelet-derived growth factors facilitate healing by delivering the growth factors directly to the site of the wound. At the present time, Regranex Gel is the only Food and Drug Administration-approved drug therapy that contains platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF). It has been found to be very effective in the treatment of diabetic foot ulcers when used in conjunction with proper wound care. Drug therapies like AutoloGel utilize a patient’s own blood by taking their blood and isolating and activating the platelet rich plasma (PRP) The process combines the PRP with growth factors, cytokines and chemokines to create a gel that is then applied directly to the wound. The gel works to bring back the body’s normal balance and promote wound healing.
Although there are no FDA-approved drug therapies for the treatment of ischemic heart disease or peripheral artery disease, there are clinical trials under way that are showing promising results.
Negative pressure wound therapy has proven effective in the treatment of chronic wounds. Systems like vacuum assisted closure utilize pressure to remove fluid, remove contaminated tissue and increase blood flow. Another device that has shown excellent results in stimulating cells and facilitating healing is the MIST ultrasound, a no-contact device that utilized a combination of low frequency and low-intensity. Finally, hyperbaric oxygen has also been to increase angiogenesis by stimulating endothelial progenitor cells, which are believed to be capable of producing blood vessels.
Skin substitutes like Apligraf are made up of living cells; proteins and substances that promote skin healing. It is literally a “skin patch” created to function the way healthy skin tissue should function. When applied to a wound, it assists the surrounding skin tissue to regenerate.
Anti-angiogenesis is another form of angiogenesis therapy that actually works to inhibit angiogenesis. Cancer cells grow and spread through the production of blood vessels. The blood vessels provide the cancerous cells with the blood supply they need to reproduce, and a path on which to travel throughout the body. Anti-angiogenesis therapies work to inhibit the production of new blood vessels, thus cutting off the blood supply to the cancer. Cancers that have responded well to anti-angiogenesis therapies are colon, kidney and breast.