Background: Neutrophil dysfunction plays a key role in the development of diseases characterized by inflammation and angiogenesis. Here, we studied the systemic expression of neutrophil markers reflecting activation, adhesion, and resolution of inflammation in patients with neovascular age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Results: This was a prospective case-control study of patients with neovascular AMD and age-matched healthy control individuals. Patients were recruited from an outpatient program, and control individuals were recruited amongst patients' relatives. Current smokers and individuals with either active immune-disease or ongoing cancer were not included, as these factors are known to affect neutrophil function. Fresh-drawn venous blood was processed for flow cytometric analysis of neutrophil markers. We determined percentages of positive cells and compared expression levels using fluorescence intensity measures. We found conditional differences on marker expression between patients with neovascular AMD (n = 29) and controls (n = 28): no differences were found when looking broadly, but several differences emerged when focusing on non-smokers. Here, patients with neovascular AMD had increased expression of the activity marker cluster of differentiation (CD) 66b (P = 0.003; Mann-Whitney U test), decreased expression of adhesion marker CD162 (P = 0.044; Mann-Whitney U test), and lower expression of the resolution of inflammation marker C-X-C chemokine receptor 2 (P = 0.044; Mann-Whitney U test).
Conclusions: We present novel evidence suggesting that the activity of circulating neutrophils, sensitive to smoking, may differ in patients with neovascular AMD.
Keywords: Age-related macular degeneration; Choroidal neovascularization; Flow cytometry; Inflammation; Neutrophils.