Capillary rarefaction is broadly defined as a reduction in vascular density. Capillary rarefaction in the kidneys is thought to promote hypoxia, impair hemodynamic responses and predispose to chronic kidney disease (CKD) progression and hypertension development. Various mechanisms have been suggested to play a role in the development of capillary rarefaction, including inflammation, an altered endothelial-tubular epithelial cell crosstalk, a relative deficiency in angiogenic growth factors, loss of pericytes, increased activity of Transforming growth factor -β1 and thrombospondin-1, vitamin D deficiency, a link to lymphatic neoangiogenesis and INK4a/ARF (Cylin-dependent kinase inhibitor 2a; CDKN2A). In this review, we summarize the tools available to monitor capillary rarefaction noninvasively in the clinic, the contribution of capillary rarefaction to CKD and hypertension, the known mechanisms of capillary rarefaction, and potential future strategies to attenuate capillary rarefaction and reduce its negative impact. Therapeutic strategies to be explored in more detail include optimization of antihypertensive therapy, vitamin D receptor activators, sirtuin 1 activators, Hypoxia inducible factor prolyl hydroxylase inhibitors and stem cell therapy.
Keywords: capillary; chronic kidney disease; hypertension; hypoxia-inducible factor; pericyte; rarefaction.