Platelets from patients affected by diabetes mellitus and metabolic syndrome show an impaired sensitivity to physiological antiaggregating agents and an enhanced activation state, mirrored by an increased expression of membrane activation markers; furthermore, they are more prone to form spontaneous microaggregates with ADP receptor involvement. These abnormalities are responsible for a pro-thrombotic condition, contributing to a high cardiovascular risk. This pattern of platelet abnormalities provides a strong rationale for aggressive antiplatelet therapy strongly recommended by guidelines both in diabetes mellitus and in metabolic syndrome, not only in the setting of acute coronary syndromes, but also for the long-term prevention of the cardiovascular events. Antiplatelet therapy in these pathological conditions, however, is still a matter of intense debate, especially because a high prevalence of “resistance” to these drugs (and to aspirin in particular) has been described in these patients. This may result in non-significant reductions in cardiovascular events. Different factors seem to be involved, including: i) genetic polymorphisms; ii) hyperglycemia and poor metabolic control; iii) reduced sensitivity to nitric oxide; iv) a pro-inflammatory and/or pro-thrombotic status, and, v) increased oxidative stress. This review will take into consideration: i) the results of the most relevant studies addressing the effects of the antiaggregating treatment in patients affected by diabetes mellitus and/or metabolic syndrome, and, ii) the biochemical mechanisms accounting for the impaired sensitivity to aspirin and thienopyridines in the above mentioned clinical conditions.
Keywords: Aspirin, cardiovascular disease, clopidogrel, metabolic syndrome, nitric oxide, obesity, platelets, thienopyridines, ticlopidine, type 2 diabetes mellitus
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