Intussusceptive angiogenesis in Covid-19: hypothesis on the significance and focus on the possible role of FGF2.Mol Biol Rep. 2020 Oct; 47(10):8301-8304.MB
The interest on the role of angiogenesis in the pathogenesis and progression of human interstitial lung diseases is growing, with conventional sprouting (SA) and non-sprouting intussusceptive angiogenesis (IA) being differently represented in specific pulmonary injury patterns. The role of viruses as key regulators of angiogenesis is known for several years. A significantly enhanced amount of new vessel growth, through a mechanism of IA, has been reported in lungs of patients who died from Covid-19; among the angiogenesis-related genes, fibroblast growth factor 2 (FGF2) was found to be upregulated. These findings are intriguing. FGF2 plays a role in some viral infections: the upregulation is involved in the MERS-CoV-induced strong apoptotic response crucial for its highly lytic replication cycle in lung cells, whereas FGF2 is protective against the acute lung injury induced by H1N1 influenza virus, improving the lung wet-to-dry weight ratio. FGF2 plays a role also in regulating IA, acting on pericytes (crucial for the formation of intraluminal pillars), and endothelium, and FGF2-induced angiogenesis may be promoted by inflammation and hypoxia. IA is a faster and probably more efficient process than SA, able to modulate vascular remodeling through pruning of redundant or inefficient blood vessels. We can speculate that IA might have the function of restoring a functional vascular plexus consequently to extensive endothelialitis and alveolar capillary micro-thrombosis observed in Covid-19. Anti-Vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) strategies are currently investigated for treatment of severe and critically ill Covid-19 patients, but also FGF2, and its expression and/or signaling, might represent a promising target.