Only a minority of patients with type 1 diabetes develop diabetic nephropathy (DN). Poor glycemic control cannot fully explain DN risk, and family studies suggest genetic susceptibility factors. To understand familial DN concordance, we evaluated glomerular structure in families with type 1 diabetic sibling pairs. Kidney function and biopsy studies were performed in 21 probands (P) (first to develop diabetes) and 21 siblings (S) (second to develop diabetes), most with normal urinary albumin excretion rates (UAER). Glomerular structure was measured by morphometry. Intrafamilial correlation was estimated by one-way random-effects ANOVA and by mixed-effects ANOVA, adjusting for age and duration of diabetes. Diabetes duration was, by definition, longer in P than in S, while age and sex were similar. HbA1c over 5 years and blood pressure were not different in P and S and were without familial effect. UAER was greater in P than in S (P < 0.05), with strong familial effect (P = 0.03). A strong concordance among siblings for mesangial fractional volume (P < or = 0.01) remained significant after adjustment for diabetes duration and age (P = 0.04). Results were similar for mesangial cell (P = 0.01; adjusted P = 0.04) and mesangial matrix fractional volumes (P < 0.01; adjusted P = 0.06). There was also clustering of the patterns of glomerular lesions. For example, if P had relatively marked glomerular basement membrane thickening compared with mesangial matrix expansion, S had a similar pattern (chi2, P < 0.025). Strong concordance in severity and patterns of glomerular lesions in type 1 diabetic siblings, despite lack of concordance in glycemia, supports an important role for genetic factors in DN risk.

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