Background: It is still unclear whether age per se is associated with preservation of renal functional reserve, that is, of the increase in glomerular filtration rate (GFR) induced by appropriate vasodilating stimulus.
Methods: To gain insights into this issue, we evaluated the renal response to a maximal vasodilating stimulus, represented by the combined infusion of mixed amino acid solution (AA) and dopamine at renal dose (D), in 10 young subjects (median age of 30 years, range of 19 to 32) and in 11 subjects of older age (median age of 67 years, range of 65 to 76). Two further age-matched groups of young (N = 15) and older (N = 11) living kidney donors underwent renal needle biopsy immediately before nephrectomy to perform semiquantitative scoring (0 to 3) of arteriosclerosis in intrarenal arteries. All of the study subjects were nonsmokers with healthy status proven by extensive diagnostic evaluation excluding any risk factor of renal dysfunction.
Results: Basal renal plasma flow (RPF) and GFR were proportionally lower in older subjects (RPF, 361 +/- 29 vs. 618 +/- 34 mL/min/1.73 m(2), P < 0.001; GFR, 79 +/- 4 vs. 127 +/- 5.8 mL/min/1.73 m(2), P < 0.001). After AA + D, a significant increase of RPF and GFR was observed in both groups, but the older subjects exhibited a smaller percentage increment (RPF, 25.5 +/- 4.8 vs. 42.4 +/- 5.8, P < 0.05; GFR, 19.6 +/- 5.7 vs. + 33.8 +/- 6.4, P < 0.05). Furthermore, the maximal vasodilating stimulus was not able to restore renal hemodynamics in older subjects to the level measured in young controls at baseline. Renal vascular resistances were higher (P < 0.05) in the older subjects both at baseline (0.19 +/- 0.02 vs. 0.09 +/- 0.004 mm Hg/mL/min) and after AA + D (0.14 +/- 0.01 vs. 0.06 +/- 0.004). Light microscopy examination detected the presence of a greater degree of arteriosclerosis at the level of interlobular and arcuate arteries (0.89 +/- 0.15 vs. 0.45 +/- 0.08) and interstitial fibrosis/tubular atrophy (1.18 +/- 0.13 vs. 0.53 +/- 0.13) in older than in young subjects.
Conclusions: Therefore, aging has adverse effects on renal function despite the absence of any risk factor for renal disease, including chronic smoking: (1) GFR and RPF are lower, and (2) the renal response to maximal vasodilating stimulus is impaired. These aging-related alterations of renal hemodynamics are possibly due to organic lesions in renal vasculature.