Therapeutic angiogenesis/vasculogenesis holds promise for the cure of ischaemic disease. The approach postulates the manipulation of spontaneous healing response by supplementation of growth factors or transplantation of vascular progenitor cells. These supplements are intended to foster the formation of arterial collaterals and promote the regeneration of damaged tissues. Angiogenic factors are generally delivered in the form of recombinant proteins or by gene transfer using viral vectors. In addition, new non-viral methods are gaining importance for their safer profile. The association of growth factors with different biological activity might offer distinct advantages in terms of efficacy, yet combined approaches require further optimization. Alternatively, substances with pleiotropic activity might be considered, by virtue of their ability to target multiple mechanisms. For instance, some angiogenic factors not only stimulate the growth of arterioles and capillaries, but also inhibit vascular destabilization triggered by metabolic and oxidative stress. Transplantation of endothelial progenitor cells was recently proposed for the treatment of peripheral and myocardial ischaemia. Progenitor cells can be transplanted either without any preliminary conditioning or after ex vivo genetic manipulation. Delivery of genetically modified progenitor cells eliminates the drawback of immune response against viral vectors and makes feasible repeating the therapeutic procedure in case of injury recurrence. It is envisioned that these new approaches of regenerative medicine will open unprecedented opportunities for the care of life-threatening diseases.
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