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Keywords:

  • atherosclerosis;
  • diabetes mellitus;
  • platelet activation

Summary.  The abnormal metabolic state that accompanies diabetes renders arteries susceptible to atherosclerosis, being capable of altering the functional properties of multiple cell types, including endothelium and platelets. In particular, an altered platelet metabolism and changes in intraplatelet signaling pathways may contribute to the pathogenesis of atherothrombotic complications of diabetes. A variety of mechanisms may be responsible for enhanced platelet aggregation. Among them, hyperglycemia may represent a causal factor for in vivo platelet activation, and may be responsible for nonenzymatic glycation of platelet glycoproteins, causing changes in their structure and conformation, as well as alterations of membrane lipid dynamics. Furthermore, hyperglycemia-induced oxidative stress is responsible for enhanced peroxidation of arachidonic acid to form biologically active isoprostanes, which represents an important biochemical link between impaired glycemic control and persistent platelet activation. Finally, increased oxidative stress is responsible for activation of transcription factors and expression of redox-sensitive genes leading to a phenotypic switch of endothelium toward an adhesive, pro-thrombotic condition, initial platelet activation, adhesion and subsequent platelet aggregate formation. All this evidence is strengthened by the results of clinical trials documenting the beneficial effects of metabolic control on platelet function, and by the finding that aspirin treatment may even be more beneficial in diabetic than in high-risk non-diabetic patients. Attention to appropriate medical management of diabetic patients will have great impact on long-term outcome in this high-risk population.