Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is a microvascular complication of diabetes and a leading cause of vision loss. Biomarkers and methods for early diagnosis of DR are urgently needed. Using a new molecular imaging approach, we show up to 94% higher accumulation of custom designed imaging probes against vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 2 (VEGFR-2) in retinal and choroidal vessels of diabetic animals (P<0.01), compared to normal controls. More than 80% of the VEGFR-2 in the diabetic retina was in the capillaries, compared to 47% in normal controls (P<0.01). Angiography in rabbit retinas revealed microvascular capillaries to be the location for VEGF-A-induced leakage, as expressed by significantly higher rate of fluorophore spreading with VEGF-A injection when compared to vehicle control (26±2 vs. 3±1 μm/s, P<0.05). Immunohistochemistry showed VEGFR-2 expression in capillaries of diabetic animals but not in normal controls. Macular vessels from diabetic patients (n=7) showed significantly more VEGFR-2 compared to nondiabetic controls (n=5) or peripheral retinal regions of the same retinas (P<0.01 in both cases). Here we introduce a new approach for early diagnosis of DR and VEGFR-2 as a molecular marker. VEGFR-2 could become a key diagnostic target, one that might help to prevent retinal vascular leakage and proliferation in diabetic patients.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology