The presence of higher level of endogenous free radical reaction products in the erythrocyte ghost membrane (EGM) of Non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) subjects compared with that of normal healthy controls has been demonstrated. The EGMs of NIDDM subjects were also shown to be more susceptible to exogenously generated oxidative stress than those of normal healthy individuals. The decreased level of reactive thiol groups in the EGM of NIDDM individuals supported this observation. We propose that the presence of significant levels of non-heme iron in the EGM of NIDDM subjects is an indication of the potential for iron-catalysed production of hydroxy and other toxic radicals which could cause continuous oxidative stress and tissue damage. Oxygen free radicals could therefore be responsible for most of the erythrocyte abnormalities associated with non-insulin-dependent diabetes and could indeed be intimately involved in the mechanism of tissue damage in diabetic complications.

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