Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is a chemical signal produced by cells that stimulates the growth of new blood vessels. It is part of the system that restores the oxygen supply to tissues when blood circulation is inadequate.
VEGF's normal function is to create new blood vessels during embryonic development, new blood vessels after injury, and new vessels (collateral circulation) to bypass blocked vessels.
When VEGF is overexpressed, it can contribute to disease. Solid cancers cannot grow beyond a limited size without an adequate blood supply; cancers that can express VEGF are able to grow and metastasize. Overexpression of VEGF can cause vascular disease in the retina of the eye and other parts of the body. Drugs such as bevacizumab can inhibit VEGF and control or slow those diseases.
VEGF is a sub-family of growth factors, specifically the platelet-derived growth factor family of cystine-knot growth factors. They are important signaling proteins involved in both vasculogenesis (the ''de novo'' formation of the embryonic circulatory system) and angiogenesis (the growth of blood vessels from pre-existing vasculature).
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Last Updated: Feb 1, 2011