Growth factors in ulcer healing: Lessons from recent studies

Sandor Szabo, Áron Vincze

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

83 Citations (Scopus)


Growth factors such as epidermal growth factor (EGF), basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF), platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) and more recently vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) have been used extensively to heal experimental-gastric, duodenal and colonic ulcers in animal models. Encouraging results have been reported in clinical trials with EGF and bFGF. Since our laboratory has been involved with the initial ulcer healing studies with bFGF, PDGF and VEGF, we summarize here the major lessons from these studies and from literature data. These conclusions relate to the role of: 1) gastrointestinal (GI) secretion; 2) epithelial versus vascular components of the healing; 3) efficacy in the upper and lower GI tract; 4) quality of ulcer healing; as well as 5) the endogenous origin; and 6) molar potency of growth factors. Namely, among these growth factors only EGF inhibits gastric acid and stimulates duodenal bicarbonate secretion, while chronic administration of bFGF slightly enhances gastric secretion and PDGF has no effect demonstrating that potent ulcer healing can be achieved without influencing acid base and mucus secretion. This might be related to the fact that these growth factors stimulate with varying potency virtually all the cellular elements needed for ulcer healing, e.g., epithelial cell proliferation and migration by EGF > bFGF > PDGF, fibroblast proliferation by bFGF > PDGF and angiogenesis by VEGF > bFGF >> PDGF >> EGF. Conceptually, the most interesting results were obtained recently with VEGF which is virtually specific for angiogenesis, illustrating that stimulation of vascular factors is sufficient for ulcer healing because epithelial cells apparently spontaneously proliferate and migrate over a dense granulation tissue to complete the healing process. Since these growth factors directly stimulate the cell components of ulcer healing, it is probably not surprising that they are active in both upper and lower GI tract lesions, produce good quality of ulcer healing in comparison with spontaneously healed duodenal ulcers which are hypovascular and muscle regeneration is not part of natural healing. Contrary to other antiulcer drugs, these growth factors endogenously derived and play a role in the natural history of ulcer healing, and since these relatively large peptides (18-45 kDa) are active in ng quantities, their molar potency is 2-7 million times superior to cimetidine-like drugs. Thus growth factors are endogenously derived very potent antiulcer drugs which act independently of GI secretion, are active in upper and lower GI lesions, and since they stimulate virtually all the cells of the healing process, they produce an excellent quality of ulcer healing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-81
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Physiology Paris
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2000


  • Basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF)
  • Cysteamine
  • Duodenal ulcer
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF)
  • Ulcer healing
  • Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Physiology (medical)

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