Angiogenesis, the formation of new vessels, is found in Multiple Sclerosis (MS) demyelinating lesions following Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF) release and the production of several other angiogenic molecules. The increased energy demand of inflammatory cuffs and damaged neural cells explains the strong angiogenic response in plaques and surrounding white matter. An angiogenic response has also been documented in an experimental model of MS, experimental allergic encephalomyelitis (EAE), where blood-brain barrier disruption and vascular remodelling appeared in a pre-symptomatic disease phase. In both MS and EAE, VEGF acts as a pro-inflammatory factor in the early phase but its reduced responsivity in the late phase can disrupt neuroregenerative attempts, since VEGF naturally enhances neuron resistance to injury and regulates neural progenitor proliferation, migration, differentiation and oligodendrocyte precursor cell (OPC) survival and migration to demyelinated lesions. Angiogenesis, neurogenesis and oligodendroglia maturation are closely intertwined in the neurovascular niches of the subventricular zone, one of the preferential locations of inflammatory lesions in MS, and in all the other temporary vascular niches where the mutual fostering of angiogenesis and OPC maturation occurs. Angiogenesis, induced either by CNS inflammation or by hypoxic stimuli related to neurovascular uncoupling, appears to be ineffective in chronic MS due to a counterbalancing effect of vasoconstrictive mechanisms determined by the reduced axonal activity, astrocyte dysfunction, microglia secretion of free radical species and mitochondrial abnormalities. Thus, angiogenesis, that supplies several trophic factors, should be promoted in therapeutic neuroregeneration efforts to combat the progressive, degenerative phase of MS.
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