Heightened systemic oxidative stress is increasingly recognized as a feature of cystic fibrosis (CF). The consequences of long-term exposure to free radical attack include a predisposition to diseases such as cancer and atherosclerosis. An increased incidence of malignancy among adult patients with CF has been reported, but the absence of atherosclerotic disease is well described. The aim of the present study was to assess endothelial function in vivo and relate this to the potential of serum from patients with CF to induce oxidative-mediated damage in cultured human endothelial cells. A group of 11 CF patients was matched with a group of healthy volunteers with regard to age and sex. Endothelial function was assessed as endothelium-dependent and -independent vasodilation by measuring forearm blood flow in response to infused acetylcholine and sodium nitroprusside respectively. Confluent monolayers of cultured human endothelial cells were exposed to serum from CF patients and control subjects. Following exposure, cell death was assessed by lactate dehydrogenase release, and the degree of lipid peroxidation in the membrane was assessed by measuring the content of lipid hydroperoxides, malondialdehyde and 4-hydroxynonenal. Endothelial monolayers exposed to serum from CF patients released significantly less lactate dehydrogenase following exposure than those exposed to serum from healthy controls (1.8% and 3.0% respectively; mean difference -1.2%; 95% confidence intervals -1.9% to -0.1%; P < 0.05) and contained significantly less 4-hydroxynonenal (0.75 and 3.41μmol/g of protein respectively; mean difference -2.66μmol/g; 95% confidence intervals -5.10 to -0.22μmol/g; P < 0.05). There was no significant difference between patients and controls in the extent of serum-induced membrane peroxidation, as assessed by malondialdehyde or lipid hydroperoxides, or in endothelial function, as assessed by forearm blood flow. In conclusion, despite evidence for heightened systemic oxidative stress in CF, patients displayed no impairment of endothelial function, and their serum caused significantly less damage to human endothelial cells than that from matched controls.

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