Background: Detection of podocytes in the urinary sediments of children with glomerulonephritis has been shown to indicate severe injury to the podocytes. The aim of the present study was to determine whether podocytes are present in the urine sediments of adult patients with diabetes with and without nephropathy and whether trandolapril is effective for podocyte injury.
Methods: Fifty diabetic patients (10 with normoalbuminuria, 15 with microalbuminuria, 15 with macroalbuminuria and 10 with chronic renal failure) and 10 healthy controls were studied. Urinary podocytes were examined by immunofluorescence using monoclonal antibodies against podocalyxin, which is present on the surface of podocytes. In addition, we studied plasma metalloproteinase (MMP)-9 concentrations in all patients.
Results: Urinary podocytes were absent in healthy controls, diabetic patients with normoalbuminuria and diabetic patients with chronic renal failure. Podocytes were detected in the urine of eight diabetic patients with microalbuminuria (53%) and of 12 patients with macroalbuminuria (80%). The number of podocytes in the urine of patients with macroalbuminuria was significantly greater than in patients with microalbuminuria (P:<0.01). However, there was no relationship between urinary albumin excretion and urinary podocytes. In addition, plasma MMP-9 concentrations were significantly correlated with the number of urinary podocytes (P:<0.01). Twelve diabetic patients with macroalbuminuria and eight patients with microalbuminuria who had urinary podocytes were treated with the angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor trandolapril. Urinary albumin excretion, the number of podocytes and plasma MMP-9 concentrations were reduced by the trandolapril treatment.
Conclusions: Podocytes in the urine may be a useful marker of disease activity in diabetic nephropathy. Trandolapril may be effective for podocyte injury.