Pathogenetic potential of leukocytes in diabetic retinopathy

Semin Ophthalmol. 1999 Dec;14(4):233-9. doi: 10.3109/08820539909069542.


Recently, increasing interest has been directed toward the role of leukocytes in microvascular disorders including diabetic retinopathy because of their large cell volume, high cytoplasmic rigidity, natural tendency to stick to the vascular endothelium, and capacity to generate toxic superoxide radicals and proteolytic enzymes. Leukocytes in diabetes are reported to be less deformable and more activated, and may be involved in capillary non-perfusion, endothelial cell damage, and vascular leakage in the retinal microcirculation. In fact, histological studies show many capillary occlusions by leukocytes and capillary dropout or degeneration associated with leukocytes in the diabetic retina. Serial acridine orange leukocyte fluorography and fluorescein angiography studies also identify trapped leukocytes directly associated with areas of downstream non-perfusion in the diabetic retinal microcirculation. More recent studies suggest that adhesion molecules may mediate retinal leukocyte stasis (leukostasis) in diabetes and a reduction in the leukostasis by anti-adhesion antibodies can suppress retinal vascular leakage. In addition, some agents inhibiting leukostasis are reported to improve retinal abnormalities induced by diabetes. Thus, leukostasis in the retinal microcirculation can be a new promising target in the treatment of diabetic retinopathy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Flow Velocity / drug effects
  • Diabetic Retinopathy / complications
  • Diabetic Retinopathy / drug therapy
  • Diabetic Retinopathy / physiopathology*
  • Endothelium, Vascular / drug effects
  • Endothelium, Vascular / metabolism
  • Endothelium, Vascular / pathology
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes / physiology*
  • Leukostasis / etiology
  • Leukostasis / pathology
  • Leukostasis / prevention & control
  • Microcirculation / drug effects
  • Protein Kinase C / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Protein Kinase C / metabolism
  • Retinal Vessels / physiopathology
  • Vasodilator Agents / therapeutic use


  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Vasodilator Agents
  • Protein Kinase C