Vascular permeability changes precede the development of demyelinating lesions in multiple sclerosis (MS), and vessel wall thickening and capillary proliferation are frequently seen in autopsied MS lesions. Although vascular growth factors are critical for inducing such vascular changes, their involvement in MS has not been extensively studied. Thus, we examined the involvement of various vascular growth factors in MS according to their clinical phase and subtype. We measured serum levels of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), acidic and basic fibroblast growth factors (FGF) and platelet-derived growth factors (PDGFs)-AA, -AB and -BB in 50 patients with MS (27 opticospinal MS and 23 conventional MS patients) and 33 healthy controls using sandwich enzyme immunoassays. Correlations between growth factor changes and brain and spinal cord MRI findings were then analyzed. Serum VEGF concentrations were significantly higher in MS patients in relapse than in controls (p = 0.0495) and in MS patients in remission (p = 0.0003), irrespective of clinical subtype. Basic FGF was significantly increased in conventional MS patients, but not opticospinal MS patients compared with controls (p = 0.0291), irrespective of clinical phase. VEGF at relapse showed a significant positive correlation with the length of spinal cord lesions on MRI (r = 0.506, p = 0.0319). The results suggest that an increase in serum VEGF concentration might be involved in MS relapse and the formation of longitudinally extensive spinal cord lesions.
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