PURPOSE: To evaluate the changes in activity of biomarkers of Mu[Combining Diaeresis]ller cells (MC) in aqueous humor of patients with diabetic macular edema after subthreshold micropulse laser, over 1 year.
METHODS: Patients with untreated diabetic macular edema and central retinal thickness ≤ 400 μm were enrolled. Best-corrected visual acuity, full ophthalmic examination, and optical coherence tomography were performed. Subthreshold micropulse laser was applied every 3 months. Glial fibrillary acidic protein and inwardly rectifying potassium channel (Kir 4.1), MC activity markers, and vascular endothelial growth factor were quantified in the aqueous humor collected at baseline and at 1, 3, and 12 months after laser. Changes in the macular thickness and inner nuclear layer thickness, where MC bodies are located, were measured.
RESULTS: Ten eyes of 10 patients were included. Best-corrected visual acuity improved at 3 months (P = 0.047) and remained stable. Inner nuclear layer thickness significantly reduced at 12 months (P = 0.012). Glial fibrillary acidic protein, Kir 4.1, and vascular endothelial growth factor decreased at 1 and/or 3 and/or 12 months compared with baseline (P < 0.05).
CONCLUSION: Subthreshold micropulse laser improves visual function in diabetic macular edema. Kir 4.1 and glial fibrillary acidic protein decrease and inner nuclear layer thickness reduction demonstrate that subthreshold micropulse laser may restore MC function. Subthreshold micropulse laser also reduces vascular endothelial growth factor concentration. The effect of subthreshold micropulse laser in diabetic macular edema may in part be due to changes of MC metabolic activity.