Apelin Regulates Blood Vessel Growth

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Paul Krieg
Professor, Cell Biology & Anatomy
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Rakhi Gibbons
Asst. Director, Life Sciences (520) 626-6695

Title: Apelin Regulates Blood Vessel Growth

Basis of Invention. University of Arizona researchers have discovered a peptide, apelin, which is expressed in developing blood vessels, and positively regulates blood vessel growth. Manipulation of the levels of this peptide is expected to have implications in a range of clinical applications: increasing apelin levels may help patients with diabetes who have lost blood flow to their extremities, or encourage new coronary vessel growth in an ischemic heart, while inhibitors of apelin function may inhibit tumor growth through inhibiting angiogenesis. Apelin may affect processes as diverse as angiogenesis, lymphangiogenesis, tumorigenesis, apoptosis, metastasis, inflammation and vascular permeability. Few positive regulators of blood vessel growth are currently known, making this peptide an exciting development in the field, with huge clinical potential.

The Technology: In normal tissue, apelin is expressed only in the embryo, where it causes alterations in vascular growth. Frogs injected with beads coated in apelin showed new blood vessels growing towards the beads, and antisense frogs showed selective loss of intersomitic vessels, supporting the hypothesis that apelin is a positive regulator of vessel growth. Apelin mRNA was also shown to be up-regulated in about 1/3 of all tumor samples, when compared to tissue from adjacent tissue. VEGF, a known marker of angiogenesis, was also up-regulated in about 1/3 of samples, and the vessel growth promoted by apelin is similar to that stimulated by VEGF. This suggests that apelin has a role in tumorigenesis. Thus stimulation of apelin could promote vessel growth where it is required, while inhibition of apelin may reduce vessel growth in a pathological system (e.g. cancer).

*              Apelin stimulates blood vessel growth in a similar manner to VEGF
*              Possible roles in inducing vessel growth for diabetic patients, in wound healing and in recovery from heart attacks
*              Possibly can be inhibited in tumors reducing cancer growth/metastasis
*              Apelin is not normally expressed in adult patients, so inhibition is unlikely to have major side-effects (antisense frogs survive) 

State of Development: Have shown that apelin is a positive regulator of blood vessel growth and is over-expressed in cancers.