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Semin Vasc Med. 2002 May;2(2):175-89.

Glycation, carbonyl stress, EAGLEs, and the vascular complications of diabetes.

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  • 1Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Medical Genetics, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC 29425, USA.


The association between poor metabolic control and the microvascular complications of diabetes is now well established, but the relationship between long-term metabolic control and the accelerated atherosclerosis of diabetes is as yet poorly defined. Hyperglycemia is the standard benchmark by which metabolic control is assessed. One mechanism by which elevated glucose levels may mediate vascular injury is through early and advanced glycation reactions affecting a wide variety of target molecules. The "glycation hypothesis'' has developed over the past 30 years, evolving gradually into a "carbonyl stress hypothesis'' and taking into account not only the modification of proteins by glucose, but also the roles of oxidative stress, a wide range of reactive carbonyl-containing intermediates (derived not only from glucose but also from lipids), and a variety of extra- and intracellular target molecules. The final products of these reactions may now be termed "Either Advanced Glycation or Lipoxidation End-Products'' or "EAGLEs.'' The ubiquity of carbonyl stress within the body, the complexity of the reactions involved, the variety of potential carbonyl intermediates and target molecules and their differing half-lives, and the slow development of the complications of diabetes all pose major challenges in dissecting the significance of these processes. The extent of the reactions tends to correlate with overall metabolic control, creating pitfalls in the interpretation of associative data. Many animal and cell culture studies, while supporting the hypothesis, must be viewed with caution in terms of relevance to human diabetes. In this article, the development of the carbonyl stress hypothesis is reviewed, and implications for present and future treatments to prevent complications are discussed.

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