Angiogenesis and cardiovascular dysfunction in urbanised Africans : the PURE study
Venter, Paul Christiaan
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Argument: Hypertension is a main contributing risk factor to many cardiovascular diseases and may be the cause or the result of cardiovascular dysfunction. Black Africans, especially, suffer from hypertension because of lifestyle changes that occur during westernisation, which may lead to sympatho-adrenal hyperactivity. Vascular endothelial growth factor-A (VEGF-A) and angiopoietin-2 (Ang-2) are regulators of angiogenesis and are significantly up regulated during states of vascular dysfunction. Levels of angiogenic factors are unknown for African people and may not be the same as levels thus far reported for Caucasians. Aims: The aim of this study is firstly, to determine whether differences exist regarding the levels of VEGF-A and Ang-2 in urbanised compared to rural black Africans and secondly, to determine whether increased levels of VEGF-A and Ang-2 factors are related to hypertension in black Africans. Methodology: This is a sub study that is based upon the Prospective Urban and Rural Epidemiological (PURE) study. Apparently healthy, fasting African men and women (N=272, aged 35 to 50 years) from the North-West province of South Africa were selected by a medical doctor to participate in this study. Groups were stratified according to gender and urbanisation status based upon information derived from sociodemographic questionnaires. Cardiovascular parameters (Omron HEM-757), pulse wave velocity (PWV) (Compiler SP), plasma angiogenic factor levels (ELISA) and anthropometric measures were determined. An independent t-test and Pearson Chi-square test were used to compare urban and rural data, followed by an analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) while correcting for confounders (age, body mass index, physical activity and tobacco usage). ANCOVAs (corrected for confounders) were applied where hypertensive and normotensive groups were compared within the whole group and urbanised groups. Correlations, correcting for confounders, between cardiovascular variables and angiogenic factors were determined within the whole group and urbanised groups. Results and conclusion: Plasma VEGF-A values for all black Africans were very low while the ANG-2 levels were elevated compared to control values for Caucasians (normotensive and hypertensive) in literature. Urbanised men were more overweight and indicated a higher incidence of hypertension (42.47%) and elevated VEGF-A levels, but lower Ang-2 levels compared to rural men. Urbanised women were generally overweight, physically less active and smoked less, but indicated higher diastolic blood pressure (BP), VEGF-A levels and lower PWV compared with their rural counterparts. Ang-2 levels indicate a negative relationship to diastolic BP data in rural women. No relationships between hypertensive individuals and high angiogenic factor levels were uncovered. Conclusive evidence suggested that angiogenic factor levels were affected more by urbanisation than by the state of hypertension. If low levels of VEGF-2 occur, ANG-2 stimulation and properties may be altered, thereby switching ANG-2 from an anti-angiogenic to a pro-angiogenic molecule, inferring blood vessel destabilisation and vascular dysfunction, such as is observed in hypertensive urbanised men. Higher ANG-2 levels may result in Tie-2 receptor down regulation, hence causing VEGF-A levels to be lower. Further study is needed to ascertain this mechanism since Tie-2 receptor activity was not determined in this study.
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