Collateral artery growth is a potent natural defence mechanism to prevent death and myocardial infarction in occlusive artery disease. Given the high prevalence of arterial obstructive disease, a therapeutic compound stimulating collateral vessel growth could have a major impact on morbidity and mortality world wide. Although experimental studies on the stimulation of arteriogenesis have been promising, not a single drug has been proved to be applicable in clinical practice, either because of lack of efficacy or because of undesired side effects. This review summarises current knowledge on the mechanisms of collateral artery growth and examines problems that arise from the clinical implementation of pro-arteriogenic treatments to date. Future directions in the translation from bench to bedside and potential new approaches to the stimulation of vascular growth are discussed.
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