DN (diabetic nephropathy) is the leading cause of end-stage renal disease worldwide and develops in 25–40% of patients with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes mellitus. Elevated blood glucose over long periods together with glomerular hypertension leads to progressive glomerulosclerosis and tubulointerstitial fibrosis in susceptible individuals. Central to the pathology of DN are cytokines and growth factors such as TGF-β (transforming growth factor β) superfamily members, including BMPs (bone morphogenetic protein) and TGF-β1, which play key roles in fibrogenic responses of the kidney, including podocyte loss, mesangial cell hypertrophy, matrix accumulation and tubulointerstitial fibrosis. Many of these responses can be mimicked in in vitro models of cells cultured in high glucose. We have applied differential gene expression technologies to identify novel genes expressed in in vitro and in vivo models of DN and, importantly, in human renal tissue. By mining these datasets and probing the regulation of expression and actions of specific molecules, we have identified novel roles for molecules such as Gremlin, IHG-1 (induced in high glucose-1) and CTGF (connective tissue growth factor) in DN and potential regulators of their bioactions.

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