Studies of the glomerular structure in diabetes mellitus have helped to elucidate the basis for some functional abnormalities. The decline in glomerular filtration occurring in many long-term diabetics is a functional disorder of great clinical importance. Quantitative structural studies of the glomeruli in diabetics at different stages of disease are necessary to learn about the development of structural changes leading to the endstage kidney disease.
Preliminary results of a study of glomeruli from longterm diabetics with clinical nephropathy are compared with those obtained in control subjects and in diabetics within the first 5 yr of disease. In the long-term diabetics the peripheral basement membrane thickness was doubled. On the average, mesangial regions occupied nearly 60% of the total tuft volume as compared with 33% in the early stages. A marked accumulation of basement membrane material in the mesangial regions had taken place so that 85% of the total basement membrane material of the tufts (i.e., peripheral basement membrane in the capillary walls plus mesangial basement membrane-like material) was localized within the mesangial regions. In the early stages equal amounts were found at these two different sites.
The distribution of the lesions within the kidney is under investigation in a light microscopic study of autopsy material from long-term diabetics with varying degrees of glomerulopathy. The severity of the diabetic glomerulopathy was quantitated separately within the superficial and the deep cortical zones. The results showed that there was no tendency toward increased severity in the deep glomeruli. It can therefore be concluded that factors related to the structural and functional differences between these two subgroups of glomeruli do not play a dominant role in the development of diabetic glomerulopathy.