Raised serum apolipoprotein (a) in active diabetic retinopathy
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Progressive capillary occlusion often leads to severe retinopathy within 15–20 years of the onset of Type 1 (insulin-dependent) diabetes mellitus. Lipoprotein (a), a complex formed by apolipoprotein (a), apo B-100 and lipids, is considered an independent, genetically determined, predictor of cardiovascular disease. It may have antifibrinolytic properties in view of its similarity to plasminogen. To test the hypothesis that circulating lipoprotein (a) is associated with the process that leads to clinically active diabetic retinopathy, we measured the circulating levels of apolipoprotein (a) (which are strictly correlated with those of lipoprotein (a)) in two groups of patients with Type 1 diabetes of at least 15 years duration: 25 with active retinopathy and 27 without clinically detectable retinal lesions. Thirty-eight healthy subjects of the same age and sex served as controls. Serum apolipoprotein (a) was higher in the patients with active retinopathy (36(2-193) U/dl, geometric mean and range) than in those without clinically detectable retinal lesion (17(1–160)) and the control subjects (14(0–115)), p < 0.01 in both cases. The distribution of apolipoprotein (a) levels was skewed to the left, as expected, in the patients without clinically evident retinal lesions and the control groups, but there was a bimodal trend of distribution among those with active retinopathy. The levels of glycated haemoglobin were similar in the two groups of diabetic patients, and no significant differences were found for total and HDL cholesterol, triglycerides or apolipoproteins A1 and B between them and the control subjects. These preliminary results suggest that serum apolipoprotein (a) is elevated in patients with active retinopathy. The role of this lipoprotein as a predictor or a pathogenic effector of diabetic retinopathy, or both deserves further investigation.
Key wordsLipoprotein (a) Type 1 (insulin-dependent) diabetes mellitus diabetic retinopathy
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