Placental growth factor (PlGF) is a member of the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) family. Upon binding to VEGF- and neuropilin-receptor sub-types, PlGF modulates a range of neural, glial and vascular cell responses that are distinct from VEGF-A. As PlGF expression is selectively associated with pathological angiogenesis and inflammation, its blockade does not affect the healthy vasculature. PlGF actions have been extensively described in tumor biology but more recently there has been accumulating preclinical evidence that indicates that this growth factor could have an important role in retinal diseases. High levels of PlGF have been found in aqueous humor, vitreous and/or retina of patients exhibiting retinopathies, especially those with diabetic retinopathy (DR) and neovascular age-related macular degeneration (nvAMD). Expression of this growth factor seems to correlate closely with many of the key pathogenic features of early and late retinopathy in preclinical models. For example, studies using genetic modification and/or pharmacological treatment to block PlGF in the laser-induced choroidal neovascularization (CNV) model, oxygen-induced retinopathy model, as well as various murine diabetic models, have shown that PlGF deletion or inhibition can reduce neovascularization, retinal leakage, inflammation and gliosis, without affecting vascular development or inducing neuronal degeneration. Moreover, an inhibitory effect of PlGF blockade on retinal scarring in the mouse CNV model has also been recently demonstrated and was found to be unique for PlGF inhibition, as compared to various VEGF inhibition strategies. Together, these preclinical results suggest that anti-PlGF therapy might have advantages over anti-VEGF treatment, and that it may have clinical applications as a standalone treatment or in combination with anti-VEGF. Additional clinical studies are clearly needed to further elucidate the role of PlGF and its potential as a therapeutic target in ocular diseases.
van Bergen, T., Etienne, I., Cunningham, F., Moons, L., Schlingemann, R. O., Feyen, J. H. M., & Stitt, A. W. (2019). The role of placental growth factor (PlGF) and its receptor system in retinal vascular diseases. Progress in Retinal and Eye Research, 69, 116-136. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.preteyeres.2018.10.006