Early and late scanning electron microscopy findings in diabetic kidney disease

Sara Conti, Norberto Perico, Rubina Novelli, Camillo Carrara, Ariela Benigni, Giuseppe Remuzzi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Diabetic nephropathy (DN), the single strongest predictor of mortality in patients with type 2 diabetes, is characterized by initial glomerular hyperfiltration with subsequent progressive renal function loss with or without albuminuria, greatly accelerated with the onset of overt proteinuria. Experimental and clinical studies have convincingly shown that early interventions retard disease progression, while treatment if started late in the disease course seldom modifies the slope of GFR decline. Here we assessed whether the negligible renoprotection afforded by drugs in patients with proteinuric DN could be due to loss of glomerular structural integrity, explored by scanning electron microscopy (SEM). In diabetic patients with early renal disease, glomerular structural integrity was largely preserved. At variance SEM documented that in the late stage of proteinuric DN, glomerular structure was subverted with nearly complete loss of podocytes and lobular transformation of the glomerular basement membrane. In these circumstances one can reasonably imply that any form of treatment, albeit personalized, is unlikely to reach a given cellular or molecular target. These findings should persuade physicians to start the putative renoprotective therapy soon after the diagnosis of diabetes or in an early phase of the disease before structural integrity of the glomerular filter is irreversibly compromised.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4909
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 20 2018


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