Background: Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is a potent angiogenic, vascular permeability-enhancing, and calcium-dependent enzyme-modulating cytokine with overexpression in various pathologic disorders, including granulomatous inflammation, tissue repair, delayed hypersensitivity reactions, rheumatoid arthritis, and tissue ischemia. The present study investigates the role of VEGF in chronic inflammatory bowel disease.
Methods: Thirty-one patients with Crohn's disease, 15 patients with ulcerative colitis, and 9 healthy volunteers were studied. VEGF serum levels were measured with a solid-phase enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay.
Results: Significantly increased VEGF serum levels were observed in both active Crohn's disease and active ulcerative colitis when compared with healthy controls. Patients with active Crohn's disease and active ulcerative colitis showed significantly higher VEGF serum levels than patients with quiescent disease. No difference was observed between inactive disease and healthy controls. In addition, strongly increased VEGF serum levels were found in patients with Crohn's disease with fistulas in the absence of clinical, endoscopic, histologic, and laboratory findings of disease activity.
Conclusions: Significantly increased VEGF serum levels were observed in patients with active Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, which suggests that VEGF has an important role in chronic inflammatory bowel disease. Its possible association with fistulas has yet to be determined.