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Nephrol Dial Transplant. 2009 May;24(5):1500-6. doi: 10.1093/ndt/gfn636. Epub 2008 Nov 21.

Associations between age, body size and nephron number with individual glomerular volumes in urban West African males.

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Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia.



Glomerulomegaly has been associated with an increased risk of renal disease. Few reports have investigated the heterogeneity of glomerular size within kidneys and associated risk factors. This study measured the individual glomerular volume (IGV) of 720 non-sclerotic glomeruli in kidneys of adult West African males, and investigated associations of IGV with age, total glomerular (nephron) number and body surface area (BSA).


IGVs were determined in the kidneys of 24 Senegalese males from two age groups (12 subjects aged 20- 30 years and 12 subjects aged 50-70 years). Subjects were randomly chosen at autopsies performed at Le Dantec Hospital in Dakar. Volumes of 30 glomeruli per subject were determined using the disector/Cavalieri stereological method.


IGVs ranged from 1.31 x 10(6) microm3 to 12.40 x 10(6) microm3 (a 9.4-fold variation). IGV varied up to 5.3-fold within single kidneys. The trimmed range of IGV within subjects (10th to 90th percentile of IGV) was directly correlated with median glomerular size. The mean and standard deviation (SD) of IGV did not differ significantly between age groups or between subjects with higher (> or =1.78 m2) and lower BSA (<1.78 m2). In older subjects the SD of IGV was significantly and directly correlated with BSA. Kidneys with less than 1 million nephrons had significantly larger mean IGV than kidneys with more than 1 million nephrons, and the trimmed range of IGVs within subjects was inversely correlated with total glomerular number.


There was a considerable variation in IGV within kidneys of Senegalese males at autopsy. The heterogeneity of IGV was increased in association with low nephron number and increased BSA, with more pronounced effects in older subjects.

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