We briefly summarize current knowledge on 1) the abnormalities of von Willebrand factor (vWF) as an indicator of endothelial cell (EC) dysfunction in diabetes and 2) the modifications induced in the growth of cultured ECs by high glucose in the incubation media. A MEDLINE search (1986 through Sept. 1989) was performed to update previous relevant references on vWF and ECs in healthy and diabetic subjects. Main data in the literature and personal contributions were scrutinized. Study quality, information, and relevance to the subject were assessed. vWF is synthesized and stored mainly in ECs. Its plasma levels are increased in diabetic microangiopathy but are not influenced by circulating glucose, insulin, or growth hormone, nor do they acutely affect platelet function in diabetes. Supraphysiological concentrations of glucose inhibit the replication of cultured ECs from large vessels via different possible mechanisms but appear to stimulate pathways involved in the activation of capillary ECs. vWF is a possible marker of EC damage in diabetes, and prospective studies will ascertain its role as a predictor for the development of microangiopathy. The possible dichotomy in the response of cultured ECs from large and small vessels to high glucose in the culture media may help explain some of the lesions observed in the walls of arteries and capillaries in diabetes.

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