Diabetes is associated with an increased prevalence of atherosclerotic vascular disease and cardiovascular mortality. In diabetic patients, medial calcification appears to be a strong independent predictor of cardiovascular mortality; it occurs particularly in those with neuropathy. Recent evidence suggests that medial calcification in diabetes is an active, cellmediated process, similar to that observed in patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD), in which vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) express a number of bone matrix proteins that act to either facilitate or regulate the calcification process. Several bone-associated proteins (eg, osteopontin, bone sialoprotein, alkaline phosphatase, type I collagen, osteocalcin) have been demonstrated in histologic sections of vessels obtained from patients with diabetes or ESRD. In in vitro experiments, high glucose induced cell proliferation and expression of osteopontin in cultured VSMCs. Hypoxia had additive effects of hyperglycemia on VSMCs. In addition, uremic serum upregulates osteoblast transcription factor Cbfa1 and osteopontin expression in cultured VSMCs. The pathogenesis of vascular calcification in diabetes is not completely understood, although high glucose and other potential factors may play an important role by transforming VSMCs into osteoblast-like cells. Further understanding of the mechanism by which diabetes induces this complication is needed to design effective therapeutic strategies to intervene with this process.
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