The discovery of the placental growth factor and its role in angiogenesis: a historical review
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The placental growth factor (PlGF) is an angiogenic protein belonging to the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) family, which was discovered in 1991 by an Italian scientist, Maria Graziella Persico. Dr Persico cloned and purified PlGF and determined its structure by crystallography resolution. Furthermore, she identified VEGF receptor-1 (VEGFR-1) as the receptor for PlGF, and in collaboration with Dr Peter Carmeliet in Leuven, she generated evidence that loss of PlGF does not affect development, reproduction, or postnatal life. PlGF is expressed primarily in the placenta and is up-regulated in several pathological conditions, although its role is still controversial. Some data in literature reported that PlGF enhances pathological angiogenesis by initiating a cross-talk between VEGFR-1 and VEGFR-2, whereas other studies did not confirm these findings. Regarding the potential therapeutic employment of PlGF, recent evidence has shown that an anti-PlGF antibody may act as a potent antiangiogenic agent, and that it has the advantage of minor toxicity when combined with anti-VEGF strategies.