Growth factors, a subset of cytokines, are proteins that regulate many aspects of cellular function, including survival, proliferation, migration and differentiation. These factors can be secreted by neighboring cells, distant tissues, glands, or even tumor cells themselves. By binding to their receptors on target cells' surfaces, growth factors initiate signal transduction and influence various cellular processes, including cell division, survival, migration, and apoptosis. In non-neuronal cells growth factors stimulate proliferation, but mature neurons are postmitotic and cannot re-enter the cell cycle. Consequently, when considered in the context of the nervous system, growth factors are frequently referred to as neurotrophic factors.
Growth factors are involved in hematopoietic growth, stimulating bone marrow to produce blood cells, and are essential for the normal cell cycle, playing a vital role in the life of animals from conception to death. They mediate fetal development, maintenance and repair of tissues, production of blood cells, and participate in cancerous processes.
Examples of growth factors include EGF, FGF, NGF, PDGF, VEGF, IGF, GMCSF, GCSF, TGF, Erythropoietin, TPO, BMP, HGF, GDF, Neurotrophins, MSF, SGF, and GDF. Research in growth factors explores their potential in treating diseases and their roles in combination with other treatments, such as chemotherapy or hormones.