Background: Low glomerular number and large glomerular volume are hypothesized to be risk factors for hypertensive renal disease in adult life. Reports of human glomerular number are based on studies from developed nations and have found single kidney mean values of approximately 900 000 per kidney with a roughly 8-fold range matched by a similar range in glomerular volume. Glomerular number and volume have never been investigated in people from a developing country.
Methods: This study analysed the pathology of 81 autopsy kidneys from Dakar, Senegal, and determined total glomerular number and mean glomerular volume in 28 of these kidneys using the physical disector/fractionator method.
Results: Total glomerular number ranged 2.6-fold from 536 171 to 1 394 010, with a mean of 925 485 nephrons. The mean glomerular volume was 5.74 microm(3) x 10(6) with a 2.5-fold variation that was strongly and inversely correlated with total glomerular number. Glomerular number was inversely correlated with age, and age-associated increases in arteriosclerosis, cortical fibrosis and glomerulosclerosis were observed. Arteriolar nephrosclerosis was observed in 34% of adults. Mean glomerular number in this Dakar population was similar to that previously reported for people from developed nations, while the range of glomerular number and mean glomerular volume was much narrower.
Conclusions: The frequency of arteriolar nephrosclerosis in these Senegalese adults was high (34%), suggesting that hypertensive kidney disease could contribute to a large burden of future chronic kidney disease in this population. Unusually low glomerular number or large glomerular volume do not appear to provide a basis for this potential burden of kidney disease.