Placental Growth Factor Levels in Populations with High Versus Low Risk for Cardiovascular Disease and Stressful Physiological Environments such as Microgravity: A Pilot Study

Document Type


Publication Date



This pilot study compared placental growth factor (PIGF) levels in populations with high versus low risk for cardiovascular disease. Previous experiments from our laboratory (Sundaresan et al. 2005, 2009) revealed that the angiogenic factor PIGF was up regulated in modeled microgravity conditions in human lymphocytes leading to possible atherogenesis and pathogenesis in microgravity. Since the findings came from microgravity analog experiments, there is a strong link to its usefulness in the microgravity field as a biomarker. It is important to understand, that these findings came from both studies on expression levels of this cardiovascular marker in human lymphocytes in microgravity (in vitro microgravity analog), and a follow up gene expression study in hind limb suspended mice (in vivo microgravity analog). The relevance is enhanced because in life on earth, PIGF is an inflammatory biomarker for cardiovascular disease. Studies on the levels of PIGF would help to reduce the risk and prevention of heart failures in astronauts. If we can use this marker to predict and reduce the risk of cardiac events in astronauts and pilots, it would significantly help aerospace medicine operations. The investigations here confirmed that in a cardiovascular stressed population such as coronary artery disease (CAD) and acute coronary syndrome (ACS) patients, PIGF could be overexpressed. We desired to re-evaluate this marker in patients with cardiovascular disease in our own study. PIGF is a marker of inflammation and a predictor of short-term and long-term adverse outcome in ACS. In addition, elevated PIGF levels may be associated with increased risk for CAD.PIGF levels were determined in thirty-one patients undergoing cardiovascular catheterization for reasons other than ACS and in thirty-three low-risk asymptomatic subjects. Additional data on traditional cardiovascular risk factors for both populations were also compiled and compared. We found that PIGF levels were significantly higher in the high-risk population as compared to low-risk population. Also we were able to ascertain that PIGF levels were inversely correlated with HDL-cholesterol but directly correlated with the triglyceride levels. With further validation, PIGF may prove a useful addition to the armamentarium of noninvasive biomarkers for cardiovascular disease including a new area of stressful physiological conditions such as microgravity.