The multiple life of nerve growth factor: tribute to rita levi-montalcini (1909-2012).Balkan Med J. 2013 Mar; 30(1):4-7.BM
At the end of the 19(th) century, it was envisaged by Santiago Ramon y Cajal, but not, proven, that life at the neuronal level requires trophic support. The proof was obtained in the early 1950's by work initiated by Rita Levi-Montalcini (RLM) discovering the nerve growth factor (NGF). Today, NGF and its relatives, collectively designated neurotrophins, are well recognized as mediators of multiple biological phenomena in health and disease, ranging from the neurotrophic through immunotrophic and epitheliotrophic to metabotrophic effects. Consequently, NGF and other neurotrophins are implicated in the pathogenesis of a large spectrum of neuronal and non-neuronal diseases, from Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative diseases to atherosclerosis and other cardiometabolic diseases. Recent studies demonstrated the therapeutic potentials of NGF in these diseases, including ocular and cutaneous diseases. Furthermore, NGF TrkA receptor antagonists emerged as novel drugs for pain, prostate and breast cancer, melanoma, and urinary bladder syndromes. Altogether, NGF's multiple potential in health and disease is briefly described here.