The pathogenesis of diabetic nephropathy: focus on microRNAs and proteomics

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The prevalence of type 2 diabetes mellitus is growing exponentially in Western countries, and the incidence of this condition is today increasing worldwide. Other than for cardiovascular complications, diabetes is particularly challenging for the kidney's health and proper function. Prolonged exposure of the kidneys to hyperglycemia in fact often results in a clinical complication called diabetic glomerulosclerosis, also known as diabetic nephropathy. Diabetic nephropathy represents today the leading cause of end-stage renal disease in Western countries. When left untreated or undiagnosed, diabetic nephropathy is ultimately responsible for the need for dialysis and, in the worst cases, kidney transplantation of the affected individuals. The pathogenesis of diabetic nephropathy has been studied extensively. A great number of metabolites, cytokines, proteins and transcription factors play a role in the accumulation of extracellular matrix and mesangial proliferation in the glomerulus; importantly, these phenotypic alterations are considered the 2 histological hallmarks of diabetic nephropathy. Additional effort is however required to understand the wide network of biochemical pathways that link diabetes to the renal damage in the long run. The integrative analysis of the proteomic and transcriptomic features of body fluids and/or bioptic samples among different categories of patients affected by diabetic nephropathy, if based on the accurate classification of the histopathological changes in the glomerular and tubulointerstitial compartment, could lead to the identification of new early biomarkers. This approach could represent an effective, noninvasive, alternative tool for early diagnosis and intervention.

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