Optic gliomas are brain tumors characterized by slow growth, progressive loss of vision, and limited therapeutic options. Optic gliomas contain various amounts of myxoid matrix, which can represent most of the tumor mass. We sought to investigate biological function and protein structure of the myxoid matrix in optic gliomas to identify novel therapeutic targets. We reviewed histological features and clinical imaging properties, analyzed vasculature by immunohistochemistry and electron microscopy, and performed liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry on optic gliomas, which varied in the amount of myxoid matrix. We found that although subtypes of optic gliomas are indistinguishable on imaging, the microvascular network of pilomyxoid astrocytoma, a subtype of optic glioma with abundant myxoid matrix, is characterized by the presence of endothelium-free channels in the myxoid matrix. These tumors show normal perfusion by clinical imaging and lack histological evidence of hemorrhage organization or thrombosis. The myxoid matrix is composed predominantly of the proteoglycan versican and its linking protein, a vertebrate hyaluronan and proteoglycan link protein 1. We propose that pediatric optic gliomas can maintain blood supply without endothelial cells by using invertebrate-like channels, which we termed primitive myxoid vascularization. Enzymatic targeting of the proteoglycan versican/hyaluronan and proteoglycan link protein 1 rich myxoid matrix, which is in direct contact with circulating blood, can provide novel therapeutic avenues for optic gliomas of childhood.
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