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Diabetologia. 2004 Aug;47(8):1376-9. Epub 2004 Jul 17.

Elevated serum levels of N(epsilon)-carboxymethyl-lysine, an advanced glycation end product, are associated with proliferative diabetic retinopathy and macular oedema.

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Division of Endocrinology and Diabetes, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Ulm, Ulm, Germany.



Diabetic retinopathy is a frequent microvascular complication. In search of novel risk markers, we analysed the association between serum levels of the major advanced glycation end product N(epsilon)-carboxymethyl-lysine (CML) and prevalence of advanced stages of retinopathy in Type 2 diabetic patients without nephropathy.


We carried out a case-control study of Type 2 diabetic patients with and without advanced stages of diabetic retinopathy. Retinopathy and macular oedema were defined according to standard criteria. Serum levels of CML were estimated by means of a novel competition-based ELISA assay.


Serum levels of CML were significantly different between age-matched controls (n=792; mean value +/- SD: 521+/-134 ng/ml), Type 2 diabetic patients without severe retinopathy (821+/-141 ng/ml; p<0.0001) and Type 2 diabetic patients with proliferative retinopathy (1182+/-346 ng/ml; p<0.0001). Levels of CML greater than 1000 ng/ml represented a 25-fold increase in risk of proliferative retinopathy. Receiver operating characteristics analysis revealed a CML threshold of 1087 ng/ml (100% sensitivity, 93% specificity) for clinically significant macular oedema.


High serum levels of CML were associated with advanced stages of retinopathy. Serum levels were shown to be a progressive risk marker, whereby a level of more than 1000 ng/ml induced a 25-fold increase in risk of proliferative retinopathy and clinically significant macular oedema. Our data suggest that serum levels of CML provide a novel risk marker for advanced stages of diabetic retinopathy in Type 2 diabetic patients.

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