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Vascular endothelial growth factor-A (VEGF-A) is assumed to play a crucial role in the development and rupture of vulnerable plaques in the atherosclerotic process. We used a VEGF-A targeted fluorescent antibody (bevacizumab-IRDye800CW [bevacizumab-800CW]) to image and visualize the distribution of VEGF-A in (non-)culprit carotid plaques ex vivo. Freshly endarterectomized human plaques (n = 15) were incubated in bevacizumab-800CW ex vivo. Subsequent NIRF imaging showed a more intense fluorescent signal in the culprit plaques (n = 11) than in the non-culprit plaques (n = 3). A plaque received from an asymptomatic patient showed pathologic features similar to the culprit plaques. Cross-correlation with VEGF-A immunohistochemistry showed co-localization of VEGF-A over-expression in 91% of the fluorescent culprit plaques, while no VEGF-A expression was found in the non-culprit plaques (p < 0.0001). VEGF-A expression was co-localized with CD34, a marker for angiogenesis (p < 0.001). Ex vivo near-infrared fluorescence (NIRF) imaging by incubation with bevacizumab-800CW shows promise for visualizing VEGF-A overexpression in culprit atherosclerotic plaques in vivo.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2899
Number of pages11
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Early online date3-Feb-2021
Publication statusPublished - 3-Feb-2021

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