Peter Carmeliet

The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences has awarded the 2018 Dr A.H. Heineken Prize for Medicine to Peter Carmeliet, Professor of Medicine at the University of Leuven (Belgium).

The effects of growth factors on blood vessels and nerve cells

Peter Carmeliet is receiving the Dr A.H. Heineken Prize for Medicine for his research into the effects of growth factors on endothelial and nerve cells and for his efforts to develop treatments for vascular and neurological disorders based on his research findings. 

Peter Carmeliet is world-renowned for his studies on growth factors and their effects, both in health and disease. For several decades now, he has been at the forefront of research investigating how growth factors control vascular endothelial cells at the molecular level. 

Carmeliet studied vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) in particular and discovered that it also affects the growth of nerve fibres (axons). He discovered that placental growth factor (PIGF) affects the development of blood vessels and nerve bundles in embryos but also plays an important role in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and other neurodegenerative diseases. 

More recently, Carmeliet showed how vascular endothelial cells regulate the transport of fatty acids and sugars to underlying tissues, thereby playing a critical role in cardiovascular diseases and cancer. 

Basic research of this kind may eventually lead to new therapeutic interventions, for example in the treatment of paediatric brain tumours, metastasis and neurodegeneration. Carmeliet is also attempting to develop new therapies based on his research into PIGF. The antibodies that he has developed are currently being tested clinically in patients with medulloblastoma and diabetic retinopathy.

Press photos

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