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Federica Storti, Jennifer Pulley, Pascal Kuner, Markus Abt, Ulrich F. O. Luhmann; Circulating Biomarkers of Inflammation and Endothelial Activation in Diabetic Retinopathy. Trans. Vis. Sci. Tech. 2021;10(12):8. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/tvst.10.12.8.
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Inflammation and endothelial activation play a pivotal role in development and progression of diabetic retinopathy (DR), a vision-threatening complication of diabetes mellitus (DM) and the leading cause of blindness in the working age population. Easily accessible and validated biomarkers for DR early diagnosis and progression are required for use in clinical trials: here, we reviewed the available literature to understand the association of circulating levels of selected markers of inflammation and endothelial activation with the presence of nonproliferative and proliferative DR (NPDR and PDR) and investigate the relationship between their systemic and ocular levels. We additionally provide data synthesis and perform statistical analysis for interpretation of the collected evidence. CRP, IL-1β, IL-6, TNFα, sICAM1, and sVCAM1 circulating levels were increased in subjects with DM compared to healthy individuals. Moreover, TNFα and sVCAM1 showed increasing systemic levels with DR presence and severity; circulating CRP increased with the transition from no DR to NPDR, whereas IL-6 was increased in PDR compared to NDPR stages. The relationship between ocular and systemic concentrations of these proteins remained unclear due to the low number of studies with matched sampling. In conclusion, the available data supports the use of systemic biomarkers of inflammation and endothelial activation to identify DM status and DR severity. These systemic biomarkers are likely reflecting an overall state of inflammation and vascular activation in different tissues of the body, including the eyes. Prospective, longitudinal datasets are required to validate these biomarkers as predictors of early DR presence, of DR progression, or for disease monitoring.
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