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Am J Nephrol. 2009;30(2):162-70. doi: 10.1159/000211324. Epub 2009 Apr 2.

The kidney from prenatal to adult life: perinatal programming and reduction of number of nephrons during development.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics and Clinical Medicine, NICU, University of Cagliari, Cagliari, Italy.


Modified embryonic-fetal development resulting in low birth weight may lead to a reduced nephron endowment, hypertension and renal diseases in adulthood. Regarding the involvement of genetic factors, several environmental conditions may also contribute towards reducing the number of nephrons in the fetus and infant, subsequently constituting a health burden in later life. To date no methods of investigation for the early detection of a reduced nephron reserve are available. However, more structured studies should be implemented to investigate the role of angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors in managing proteinurias and glomerulosclerosis in children with renal conditions characterized by reduce nephron number and glomerular hypertrophic changes. In view of the current lack of specific methods of investigation and management, close monitoring of children and young adults at risk of reduced renal reserve should be carried out to enhance the early detection of potential changes in renal function.

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