Purpose: To evaluate epiretinal membranes in proliferative eye disease for the presence of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha).
Methods: Membranes were surgically removed from 66 patients with proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR), proliferative vitreoretinopathy (PVR) and macular pucker (MP). Cytokine concentrations were determined by ELISA (VEGF) and bioassay (TNF-alpha).
Results: VEGF was detected in all 66 membranes investigated. The highest VEGF values were found in patients with type I diabetes (mean = 5,994 pg/mg protein). In patients with type II diabetes, the values were at a mean of 1,242 pg/mg protein. When coagulation therapy was performed for longer than 3 months prior to surgery, VEGF was significantly (p < 0.05) reduced. Intermediate levels of VEGF were found in PVR membranes (mean = 1,417 pg/mg protein). The lowest activity was found in MP (mean = 216 pg/mg protein). In contrast, TNF-alpha was present in 16 PDR membranes, 9 PVR membranes and 8 MP membranes.
Conclusion: The presence of VEGF in all membranes investigated indicates that this cytokine plays an important role in angiogenesis in ischemic retinal disease and in membrane growth in proliferative disorders.