Diabetic kidney diseases revisited: A new perspective for a new era

Haiyan Fu, Silvia Liu, Sheldon I. Bastacky, Xiaojie Wang, Xiao-Jun Tian, Dong Zhou

Background: Globally, diabetic kidney disease (DKD) is the leading cause of end-stage renal disease. As the most common microvascular complication of diabetes, DKD is a thorny, clinical problem in terms of its diagnosis and management. Intensive glucose control in DKD could slow down but not significantly halt disease progression. Revisiting the tremendous advances that have occurred in the field would enhance recognition of DKD pathogenesis as well as improve our understanding of translational science in DKD in this new era.

Scope of review: In this review, we summarize advances in the understanding of the local microenvironmental changes in diabetic kidneys and discuss the involvement of genetic and epigenetic factors in the pathogenesis of DKD. We also review DKD prevalence changes and analyze the challenges in optimizing the diagnostic approaches and management strategies for DKD in the clinic. As we enter the era of ‘big data’, we also explore the possibility of linking systems biology with translational medicine in DKD in the current healthcare system.

Major conclusions: Newer understanding of the structural changes of diabetic kidneys and mechanisms of DKD pathogenesis, as well as emergent research technologies will shed light on new methods of dealing with the existing clinical challenges of DKD.