- Being a potent promoter of endothelial and smooth muscle cell proliferation, basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) is presumed to play a key role in coronary collateral development and atherogenesis. To characterize serum bFGF levels in patients with ischemic heart disease. The study population consisted of patients with angina (n=33) and after uncomplicated myocardial infarction (n=12). The number of significantly stenosed (> or = 50%) vessels and angiographic coronary collateral score were noted. Blood was drawn immediately prior to elective coronary angiography in study patients for bFGF levels. Twenty healthy, age-matched subjects served as control for serum bFGF. Serum bFGF levels were undetectable in all 20 control subjects, but were detectable in 15/33 (45%) patients with angina and 3/12 (25%) post-infarction patients, respectively (P=0.002). Serum bFGF levels were detectable in 13/23 (57%) patients with 0- or 1-vessel disease, as compared with 5/22 (23%) patients with 2- or 3-vessel disease (P<0.05). Detectable serum bFGF levels were not in correlation with coronary collateral score (P=1). Serum levels of bFGF are elevated in patients with ischemic heart disease, particularly in those with minimal coronary artery disease. We postulate that detectable serum bFGF levels reflect active atherogenesis rather than myocardial collateral development.