Kidney biopsies from 14 insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus patients with persistent albuminuria were studied by light and electron microscopy. In terms of kidney function, the patients spanned stages from early to advanced nephropathy. The clinical parameters were (ranges, with medians in parentheses) urinary albumin excretion (UAE) 158–5494 μg/min (1153 μg/min), glomerular filtration rate (GFR) 30–128 ml · min −1 · 1.73 m−2 (90 mh ml · min−1 · 1.73 m−2) and mean arterial blood pressure () 87–122 mmHg (109 mmHg). The severity of clinical nephropathy (UAE, GFR, and BP together) correlated with an index of the structural lesions (basement membrane [BM] thickness, mesangial expansion, and glomerular occlusion together; r = 0.62, 2P < 0.05). GFR compared with remnant surface of glomerular capillaries (filtration surface; FS) gave values of r = 0.72 and 2P = 0.004, and UAE compared with the percentage of the peripheral BM surface carrying fluffy loose intrinsic fine structure gave r = 0.62 and 2P = 0.02. BP per se did not correlate with structural parameters. The area of FS per open glomerulus did not decrease with increasing mesangial volume fraction, which indicates compensatory changes of the capillaries in early and advanced stages of glomerulopathy. In 7 patients with <10% occluded glomeruli, correlations between glomerular volume and the parameters of diabetic glomerulopathy (i.e., BM thickness and volume fractions of mesangium and mesangial matrix) failed to reach statistical significance. The actual glomerular volume, however, is a product of the individual's original glomerular volume, probably the early diabetic hypertrophy and modifying changes consequent to the development of glomerulopathy. Our study shows a correlation between the parameters of glomerular structural lesions and those of the functional abnormalities in diabetic nephropathy.

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