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PLoS One. 2011;6(8):e23366. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0023366. Epub 2011 Aug 18.

Phagocytic activity is impaired in type 2 diabetes mellitus and increases after metabolic improvement.

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Diabetes and Metabolism Research Unit, CIBER de Diabetes y Enfermedades Metabólicas Asociadas, Instituto de Salud Carlos III, Vall d'Hebron Institut de Recerca, Hospital Universitari Vall d'Hebrón, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain.



1) To evaluate whether peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from type 2 diabetic patients present an impairment of phagocytic activity; 2) To determine whether the eventual impairment in phagocytic activity is related to glycemic control and can be reversed by improving blood glucose levels.


21 type 2 diabetic patients and 21 healthy volunteers were prospectively recruited for a case-control study. In addition, those patients in whom HbA1c was higher than 8% (n = 12) were hospitalized in order to complete a 5-day intensification treatment of blood glucose. Phagocytic activity was assessed by using a modified flow cytometry procedure developed in our laboratory based on DNA/RNA viable staining to discriminate erythrocytes and debris. This method is simple, highly sensitive and reproducible and it takes advantage of classic methods that are widely used in flow cytometry.


Type 2 diabetic patients showed a lower percentage of activated macrophages in comparison with non-diabetic subjects (54.00±18.93 vs 68.53±12.77%; p = 0.006) Significant negative correlations between phagocytic activity and fasting glucose (r = -0.619, p = 0.004) and HbA1c (r = -0.506, p = 0.019) were detected. In addition, multiple linear regression analyses showed that either fasting plasma glucose or HbA1c were independently associated with phagocytic activity. Furthermore, in the subset of patients who underwent metabolic optimization a significant increase in phagocytic activity was observed (p = 0.029).


Glycemic control is related to phagocytic activity in type 2 diabetes. Our results suggest that improvement in phagocytic activity can be added to the beneficial effects of metabolic optimization.

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