Growth differentiation factor 15 (GDF-15) is a member of the TGF- superfamily that has anti-inflammatory properties. The objective of this study was to evaluate the relationship between circulating GDF-15 levels and diabetic retinopathy (DR) in patients with type 2 diabetes.
A case-control study was performed in which 402 patients with type 2 diabetes were enrolled. Of these, 171 patients had DR and the remaining 231 patients without DR acted as controls. The plasma GDF-15 levels were measured using ELISA, while DR was diagnosed using the canon ophthalmic digital imaging system and the Canon EOS 10D digital camera (Canon, Tokyo, Japan) through a non-pharmacologically dilated pupil.
The levels of GDF-15 were significantly higher in patients with DR [168.9 (112.9-228.3) pg/ml . 127.8 (96.1-202.8) pg/ml, P < 0.001] compared to controls. Results of the Spearman correlation analysis showed that the GDF-15 levels were positively associated with the duration of diabetes morbidity, fasting plasma glucose, systolic blood pressure, albumin/creatinine ratio, creatinine, and liver enzymes, but negatively associated with eGFR (both P < 0.001). The participants in the highest GDF-15 quartile had a significantly increased risk for DR (OR = 2.15, 95% CI 1.53-3.02) after adjusting for potential cofounders.
The circulating GDF-15 levels are positively associated with DR independent of potential cofounders.

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