We have measured plasma von Willebrand factor (VWF) as the factor Vlll-related antigen, plasma fibronectin, and two of the serum somatomedins, insulinlike growth factor I (IGF I) and IGF II, in 51 diabetic patients and 25 nondiabetic control subjects. VWF was significantly higher in the diabetic group than in the controls (173 ± 9% SEM versus 101 ± 9%, P < 0.001), as has been reported by others. However, within the diabetic group there was no significant difference in VWF between those patients without retinopathy, those with background or proliferative retinopathy, or those with macular edema. There was also no difference in VWF between the diabetic subjects with and those without proteinuria. These results rule against a previously advanced hypothesis that the increase in VWF in patients with diabetes is secondary to microangiopathy. No significant difference was observed in fibronectin, IGF I, or IGF II between the diabetic and control groups, between the diabetic group without retinopathy and the retinopathic subgroups, and between the diabetic subjects with and without proteinuria. In the diabetic patients, there was no correlation between diabetic control as assessed by glycosylated hemoglobin and glycosylated serum protein, and the plasma levels of VWF, fibronectin, IGF I, or IGF II. The results of this study strongly suggest that neither plasma VWF, fibronectin, IGF I, nor IGF II plays an important primary role in the pathogenesis of diabetic microvascular disease, although one or more of these factors might play a permissive role.

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