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Clinically apparent atherosclerotic disease in diabetes is associated with an increase in platelet microparticle levels


Professor Gregory Y. H. Lip MD FRCP, Haemostasis Thrombosis and Vascular Biology Unit, University Department of Medicine, City Hospital, Birmingham B18 7QH, UK. E-mail:


Background  The commonest cause of mortality in patients with Type 2 diabetes is atherothrombosis, which can be related to abnormalities in the coagulation and fibrinolytic pathways, as well as in platelet function. Platelet microparticles (PMPs) may contribute to the prothrombotic state and may promote the progression of atherosclerosis. We hypothesized that PMPs are elevated in Type 2 diabetes and that patients with Type 2 diabetes and clinically apparent atherosclerosis would have the highest levels. Similarly, we hypothesized that soluble plasma P-selectin (sPsel) and CD40L (both molecules which are released by activated platelets), as well as %CD62P (P-selectin) and %CD63 positivity on platelets quantified by flow cytometry, would be highest in patients with Type 2 diabetes and clinically apparent atherosclerotic disease, and might be correlated to PMP levels.

Methods  Venous blood was obtained from 21 Type 2 diabetic patients without atherosclerotic complications, 18 diabetic patients with clinically apparent atherosclerotic disease and 21 non-diabetic control subjects. PMPs, as well as %CD62P and %CD63 positivity on platelets, were quantified by flow cytometry. sPsel and CD40L were measured using ELISA.

Results   Patients with Type 2 diabetes and clinically apparent atherosclerotic disease had the highest PMP (P = 0.045) and sPsel (P = 0.046) levels, compared with patients without complications (who had intermediate PMP levels) and control subjects. Control subjects had the lowest CD40L levels (P < 0.001) when compared with patients with Type 2 diabetes, with no difference in sCD40L levels between the two diabetic subgroups. %CD62P and %CD63 positivity did not differ between the groups. PMP levels correlated with %CD62P positivity (P = 0.026) but not to %CD63 positivity (P = 0.089), sCD40L (P = 0.407) or sP-sel (P = 0.163); sCD40L levels did not correlate with any other marker of platelet activation.

Conclusion  PMPs are elevated in Type 2 diabetes. In addition, patients with clinically apparent atherosclerosis had the highest levels of PMPs and sPsel. Thus, PMPs may be a marker of symptomatic atherosclerotic vascular disease in Type 2 diabetes, and may both represent a useful risk stratification tool as well as a novel therapeutic target for anti-thrombotic drugs.