PURPOSE Endothelial and smooth muscle cells interact with each other to form new blood vessels. In this review, the cellular and molecular mechanism underlying the formation of the primary vascular plexus (vasculogenesis), the sprouting of further blood vessels (angiogenesis) and their maturation via recruitment of smooth muscle cells (arteriogenesis) during physiological and pathological conditions are summarized. CURRENT KNOWLEDGE AND KEY POINT The concept of angiogenesis is studied in tumoral and cardiovascular pathology. Promoting the formation of new collateral vessels in ischemic tissues using angiogenic growth factors (therapeutic angiogenesis) is a promising approach in cardiovascular diseases. Conversely, inhibition of the action of key regulators of angiogenesis is a new pathway for the treatment of solid tumors and metastasis. FUTURE PROSPECTS AND PROJECTS These concepts are being tested now in clinical trials in the oncology or cardiovascular fields. Some trials are reported in this review with their potential adverse effects, limits and developments in the future.