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Indian J Pathol Microbiol. 2005 Oct;48(4):453-8.

Glomerular basement membrane thickness in normal adults and its application to the diagnosis of thin basement membrane disease: an Indian study.

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Department of Histopathology, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh.


Microscopic hematuria of non-urologic origin warrants ultrastructural study of renal biopsy. Thinning and variations in the texture of glomerular basement membrane (GBM) are difficult to be recognized under light microscope; transmission electron microscope (TEM) therefore plays a vital role in identifying such changes. Ultrastructural morphometry is a valuable diagnostic aid when GBM is suspected of being abnormally thin. In an effort to determine the normal GBM thickness (GBMT) in Indian adults and to determine the cutoff value of GBMT for a diagnosis of thin basement membrane disease (TBMD), we determined GBM thickness in 25 normal adults. Postmortem biopsies of 25 normal adults (16 males and 9 females) aging between 18-58 years were included in the study. GBM thickness was determined through ultrastructural morphometry on accurately enlarged electron micrographs as harmonic mean of 50 orthogonal intercepts across the GBM in each case. Study revealed a mean GBM thickness of 321 nm with a standard deviation (SD) of 28 nm. Mean-2SD (321-56), that is 265 nm, was fixed as cutoff value of GBMT for the diagnosis of TBMD. A systematic split study of control subjects revealed thicker GBM (329+/-38 nm) in higher age group (35-60 years) as compared to GBMT (316+/-21 nm) in lower age group (18-30 years). Males in higher age group also revealed thicker GBM (males: 343+/-39 nm versus females: 300+/-12 nm). Ten patients with non-urologic hematuria and having GBMT<265 nm were diagnosed as cases of TBMD. Patients with TBMD revealed significantly attenuated GBM as compared to age and sex matched controls (214 +/- 40 nm versus 311 +/- 17 nm; p<0.0005). No overlap was observed in the distribution of GBMT in patients of TBMD and age and sex matched controls. Ultrastructural morphometry is the ultimate and appropriate method for diagnosing TBMD.

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