Endothelial progenitor cells in diabetic retinopathy

Noemi Lois, Rachel V McCarter, Christina O'Neill, Reinhold J Medina, Alan W Stitt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Citations (Scopus)
259 Downloads (Pure)


Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is a leading cause of visual impairment worldwide. Patients with DR may irreversibly lose sight as a result of the development of diabetic macular edema (DME) and/or proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR); retinal blood vessel dysfunction and degeneration plays an essential role in their pathogenesis. Although new treatments have been recently introduced for DME, including intravitreal vascular endothelial growth factor inhibitors (anti-VEGFs) and steroids, a high proportion of patients (~40-50%) do not respond to these therapies. Furthermore, for people with PDR, laser photocoagulation remains a mainstay therapy despite this being an inherently destructive procedure. Endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) are a low-frequency population of circulating cells known to be recruited to sites of vessel damage and tissue ischemia where they promote vascular healing and re-perfusion. A growing body of evidence suggests that the number and function of EPCs are altered in patients with varying degrees of diabetes duration, metabolic control, and in the presence or absence of DR. Although there are no clear-cut outcomes from these clinical studies, there is mounting evidence that some EPC sub-types may be involved in the pathogenesis of DR and may also serve as biomarkers for disease progression and stratification. Moreover, some EPC sub-types have considerable potential as therapeutic modalities for DME and PDR in the context of cell therapy. This study presents basic clinical concepts of DR and combines this with a general insight on EPCs and their relation to future directions in understanding and treating this important diabetic complication.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalFrontiers in endocrinology
Issue number44
Publication statusPublished - 09 Apr 2014


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