It is generally accepted that growth factors play an important role in the pathogenesis of proliferative diabetic retinopathy. Since platelet-derived growth factor AB (PDGF AB) is known to be involved in many angiogenetic and proliferative processes, it was the aim of our study to elucidate the role of PDGF AB in the angiogenetic process in proliferative diabetic retinopathy. We measured PDGF AB concentrations in the vitreous of 23 patients with proliferative diabetic retinopathy, 4 of them with additional rubeosis iridis as an indicator of very high vasoproliferative activity. Control measurements were done in 19 patients without diabetic or ischemic eye diseases and also in 4 non-diabetic patients with ischemic proliferative retinopathy with rubeosis iridis. To exclude PDGF remnants in the vitreous due to vitreous bleeding we additionally measured platelet factor 4 concentrations as a stable marker of activated thrombocytes in the vitreous.
Results: Significantly elevated concentrations of PDGF AB were found in the vitreous of patients with proliferative diabetic retinopathy, with higher levels in individuals with additional rubeosis iridis compared to controls. However, concentrations of PDGF AB were also elevated in ischemic non-diabetic retinopathy, supporting the concept that ischemia might be a strong stimulator of growth factor production in the retina. Platelet factor 4 was not detectable in any of the vitreous samples included in the study. In summary, our results indicate that the growth factor PDGF plays an important role in the pathogenesis of proliferative diabetic retinopathy, probably in synergistic action with other growth factors like IGF I, IGF II, VEGF and TNF alpha.