On the other hand, people who grow collaterals may more readily succumb to cancer and the ravages of diabetes. The oxygen that cancerous tumors need to grow is provided by these same collaterals. And as diabetes patients1 retinas become oxygen starved, growth of collaterals leads to retinopathy and blindness.
The Technion team is now completing a study on the connection between the ability to grow collaterals and the development of retinopathy in diabetic patients. The team is also investigating whether genetics or environmental factors are behind individual variances in collateral formation. Dr. Levy believes a genetic component is probably responsible. His soon-to-be-published studies on divided cells (fibroblasts) from the human foreskin of different donors found the cells differed markedly in their production of VEGF.
Dr. Levy said the blood test developed by his team is being prepared for commercial use. Cancer and diabetes patients who grow large amounts of collaterals could be treated more aggressively.
The research team is also examining simple ways to deliver VEGF or to reduce VEGF production. Currently, VEGF is administered by injection or catheter into the heart. Dr. Levy's team would like to find a simple delivery method that involves an oral pill.
"The body has the ability to heal itself. Our goal is to help it do that more easily," he said.
Contact: Martha Molnar
American Society for Technion - Israel Institute of Technology