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As an approach to facilitate the understanding of the progression of diabetic renal disease, we assessed the urine of diabetic patients and normal volunteers for the presence of cells that could be cultured in vitro. The results suggest that both normal control subjects and diabetic patients, without clinically detectable microangiopathy, exfoliate few culturable cells into the urine. In contrast, diabetics with documented retinopathy but without nephropathy exfoliate substantially higher numbers of culturable cells (5.2 cells/100 ml urine), whereas diabetics with both retinopathy and advanced nephropathy exfoliate even greater numbers of culturable cells (50.8 cells/100 ml urine). The cells that are exfoliated and culturable can be divided into five distinct cell types based on morphology at the light microscope level. The exfoliated cells proliferate at clonal density after isolation from urine and are epithelial in appearance. These data suggest that the culture of cells from urine might have diagnostic value as an early indicator of diabetic renal disease and provide a convenient, noninvasive new source of human kidney epithelial cells.


Article written by researchers from the Departments of Medicine and Pathology, Medical University of South Carolina. Published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, January 1983, volume 71, pages 170-173. Includes abstract, references, table, and black-and-white photographic illustrations.