Cataract Eyes in Patients With Diabetes Have Increased Cytokine Profile

Ophthalmologist doing cataract surgery on a patient in eye clinic
Woman ophthalmologist operating on male patient in eye clinic. Surgeon wearing surgical gown, mask and cap talking with senior patient before his cataract surgery in operation room with assistances standing by.
Compared with age-related cataract eyes, patients with diabetes have significantly higher concentrations of TGF-β1 and TGF-β2.

Patients with diabetic and cataract (DMC) eyes have increased transforming growth factor (TGF)-β1 and TGF-β2 concentrations in the aqueous humor (AH), and expression in lens epithelium, compared with patients who had age-related cataracts (ARC), according to findings published in BMC Ophthalmology.

AH and lens epithelium samples were obtained from cataract eyes undergoing surgery at the Eye and ENT Hospital of Fudan University in China. The concentration of AH cytokines was evaluated using a Luminex liquid suspension chip assay and cytokine expression in lens epithelium was determined using quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction.

Patients with DMC (n=33) and ARC (n=36) eyes were aged mean 69.85±6.85 and 70.36±8.08 years, 24 and 28 were women, fasting glucose was 6.31±1.34 and 5.55±0.006 mmol/L (P <.001), and glycosylated hemoglobin was 7.15%±1.03% and 5.90%±0.57% (P <.001), respectively.

In AH, the DMC and ARC eyes had a mean TGF-β1 concentration of 27.11 and 20.13 pg/ml (P =.001), TGF-β2 of 2630.55 and 2281.39 pg/ml (P =.023), and TGF-β3 of 3.81 and 3.35 pg/ml (P =.249), respectively.

In a correlation analysis, glycosylated hemoglobin was observed to correlate with the AH concentration of TGF-β1 (r, 0.306; P =.011) and TGF-β2 (r, 0.269; P =.026). Fasting glucose did not correlate with cytokine concentrations.

In lens epithelium samples, both TGF-β1 (P =.041) and TGF-β2 (P =.021) expression was significantly upregulated among DMC. For TGF-β3, the DMC samples tended to be upregulated compared with ARC but did not reach statistical significance (P =.171).

This study was limited by not evaluating potential mechanisms involved with increased cytokine concentration and expression in DMC eyes. 

The study authors report that concentrations and expression of TGF-β1 and TGF-β2 were increased in AH and lens epithelium, respectively, of DMC eyes compared with ARC eyes. In AH, the higher concentrations were correlated with glycosylated hemoglobin, which may indicate a potential role of inflammation in DMC eyes.


Gao C, Lin X, Fan F, et al. Status of higher TGF‑β1 and TGF‑β2 levels in the aqueous humour of patients with diabetes and cataracts. BMC Ophthalmol. 2022;22(1):156. doi:10.1186/s12886-022-02317-x