Circulating platelet-leukocyte aggregates: a marker of microvascular injury in diabetic patients.
Diabetes is associated with multiple disorders including metabolic, cellular and blood disturbances leading to vascular complications. Increased circulating levels of platelet-leukocyte aggregates (PLA) have been described in several thrombotic diseases. In this study, we have evaluated circulating PLA in diabetic patients and we have investigated whether they may be a marker of vascular complications. Using flow cytometry assay, we have quantified PLA percentages in 65 diabetics including 20 patients with type I and 45 with type II diabetes, and 25 healthy subjects. Specific labelling identified platelet-polymorphonuclear aggregates (PPA) and platelet-monocyte aggregates (PMA). We have observed a significant increase of PPA and PMA levels in diabetics (22+/-12% and 45+/-18%, respectively) compared to controls (7+/-4% and 19+/-10%, respectively) (p<0.01). However, both PPA and PMA values were similar in the two diabetes types. Circulating PPA and PMA were significantly enhanced in diabetics with vascular lesions (PPA: 24+/-13%; PMA: 50+/-18%) than in diabetics without vascular lesions (PPA: 18+/-8%; PMA: 38+/-15%) (p<0.05 and p<0.01). Patients with PPA>18% and/or PMA>38% showed a more important vascular injury (OR: 6; 95% CI: 1.6-23). Increased PMA circulating rate is particularly correlated to retinopathic injury (OR: 19; 95% CI: 2.3-154). Our findings established a relationship between increased circulating PLA levels, particularly PMA, and the incidence of microvascular complications in diabetes. They reinforce the concept of pro-inflammatory cells involvement in diabetic retinopathy pathogenesis and their link with thrombotic process.