Vascular endothelial growth factor: a neurovascular target in neurological diseases

Nat Rev Neurol. 2016 Aug;12(8):439-54. doi: 10.1038/nrneurol.2016.88. Epub 2016 Jul 1.


Brain function critically relies on blood vessels to supply oxygen and nutrients, to establish a barrier for neurotoxic substances, and to clear waste products. The archetypal vascular endothelial growth factor, VEGF, arose in evolution as a signal affecting neural cells, but was later co-opted by blood vessels to regulate vascular function. Consequently, VEGF represents an attractive target to modulate brain function at the neurovascular interface. On the one hand, VEGF is neuroprotective, through direct effects on neural cells and their progenitors and indirect effects on brain perfusion. In accordance, preclinical studies show beneficial effects of VEGF administration in neurodegenerative diseases, peripheral neuropathies and epilepsy. On the other hand, pathologically elevated VEGF levels enhance vessel permeability and leakage, and disrupt blood-brain barrier integrity, as in demyelinating diseases, for which blockade of VEGF may be beneficial. Here, we summarize current knowledge on the role and therapeutic potential of VEGF in neurological diseases.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Clinical Trials as Topic / methods
  • Drug Delivery Systems / trends*
  • Humans
  • Nervous System Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Nervous System Diseases / metabolism*
  • Recombinant Proteins / administration & dosage
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / metabolism*


  • Recombinant Proteins
  • VEGFA protein, human
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A