Use and isolation of urinary exosomes as biomarkers for diabetic nephropathy

Diabetes represents a major threat to public health and the number of patients is increasing alarmingly in the global scale. Particularly, the diabetic kidney disease (nephropathy, DN) together with its cardiovascular complications cause immense human suffering, highly increased risk of premature deaths, and lead to huge societal costs. DN is first detected when protein appears in urine (microalbuminuria). As in other persisting proteinuric diseases (like vasculitis) it heralds irreversible damage of kidney functions up to non-functional (end-stage) kidney and ultimately calls for kidney replacement therapy (dialysis or kidney transplantation). While remarkable progress has been made in understanding the genetic and molecular factors associating with chronic kidney diseases, breakthroughs are still missing to provide comprehensive understanding of events and mechanisms associated. Non-invasive diagnostic tools for early diagnostics of kidney damage are badly needed. Exosomes – small vesicular structures present in urine are released by all cell types along kidney structures to present with distinct surface assembly. Furthermore, exosomes carry a load of special proteins and nucleic acids. This “cargo” faithfully reflects the physiological state of their respective cells of origin and appears to serve as a new pathway for downstream signaling to target cells. Accordingly, exosome vesicles are emerging as a valuable source for disease stage-specific information and as fingerprints of disease progression. Unfortunately, technical issues of exosome isolation are challenging and, thus, their full potential remains untapped.


Here, the authors review the molecular basis of exosome secretion as well as their use to reveal events along the nephron. In addition to novel molecular information, the new methods provide the needed accurate, personalized, non-invasive, and inexpensive future diagnostics.

Musante L, Tataruch DE, Holthofer H. (2014) Use and isolation of urinary exosomes as biomarkers for diabetic nephropathy. Front Endocrinol (Lausanne) 5:149. [article]

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