Ocular and systemic markers for vascular function in those at risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular disease

  • Sunni Raman Patel

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The devastating impact of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (T2DM) -related morbidity and mortality on global healthcare is escalating with higher prevalences of obesity, poor diet, and sedentary lifestyles. Therefore, the clinical need for early diagnosis and prevention in groups of high-risk individuals is necessary. The purpose of this thesis was to investigate the use of surrogate markers, namely retinal vascular function, to determine future vascular endothelial dysfunction, atherosclerosis, large vessel disease and cardiovascular risk in certain groups. This namely covered normoglycaemic and normotensive South Asians (SAs), those with Impaired-Glucose Tolerance (IGT) and individuals with a familial history (FH) of T2DM. Additionally the effect of overweight and obesity was studied. The techniques and modified protocols adopted for this thesis involved the investigation of endothelial function by means of vascular reactivity at the ocular and systemic level. Furthermore, the relationships between retinal and systemic function with circulating markers for endothelial cell function and cardiovascular risk markers were explored. The principal studies and findings of the research were: Vascular Function in Normoglycaemic Individuals with and without a FH of T2DM WE FH individuals exhibited higher levels of total cholesterol levels that correlated well with the retinal arterial dilation amplitude to flicker light stimulus. However this did not extend to noticeable differences in markers for endothelial cell damage and impaired retinal and systemic function. Vascular Function in Normoglycaemic South-Asians vs. White-Europeans without a FH and Vascular Disturbances Compared to healthy WEs (normo -glycaemic and -tensive), SA participants exhibited levels of dyslipidaemia and a state of oxidative stress that extended to impaired vascular function as detected by reduced brachial artery flow-mediated dilation, slower retinal arterial vessel dilation reaction times (Appendix 3) and steeper constriction profiles. Furthermore, gender sub-group analysis presented in a sub-chapter shows that SA males demonstrated 24-hour systemic blood pressure (BP) and heart rate variability (HRV) abnormalities and heightened cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk. Vascular Function in Individuals Newly Diagnosed with IGT as compared to Normoglycaemic Healthy Controls Newly-diagnosed WE and SA IGT patients showed a greater risk for CVD and T2DM progression by means of 24-hour BP abnormalities, dyslipidaemia, increased carotid artery intimal-media thickness (c-IMT), Framingham scores and cholesterol ratios. Additionally, pre-clinical markers for oxidative stress and endothelial dysfunction, as evident by significantly lower levels of plasma glutathione and increased levels of von-Willebrand factor in IGT individuals, extended to impaired vascular systemic and retinal function compared to normal controls. This originally shows retinal, systemic and biochemical disturbances in newly-diagnosed IGT not previously reported before. Vascular Function in Normal, Overweight and Obese Individuals of SA and WE Ethnicity In addition to the intended study chapters, the thesis also investigated the influence of obesity and overweight on vascular function. Most importantly, it was found for the first time that compared to lean individuals it was overweight and not obese individuals that exhibited signs of vascular systemic and ocular dysfunction that was evident alongside markers of atherosclerosis, CVD risk and endothelial damage.
Date of AwardMay 2011
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorJonathan M Gibson (Supervisor) & Doina Gherghel (Supervisor)


  • T2DM
  • CVD
  • IGT
  • SAs
  • overweight
  • retinal vessel reactivity
  • vascular endothelial function

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