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Diabetes Metab Res Rev. 2012 Jan;28(1):62-70. doi: 10.1002/dmrr.1287.

Skin fibroblasts as a tool for identifying the risk of nephropathy in the type 1 diabetic population.

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Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, Chair of Metabolism, University of Padova, Padova, Italy.


Human fibroblasts in culture have been employed as an in vitro system to investigate some pathophysiological mechanisms of diabetes mellitus also associated with the development of diabetic nephropathy. In fact, there is increasing evidence that genetic factors either convey the risk of, or protect from, diabetic nephropathy and that the expression profiles and/or the behaviour of the cultured skin fibroblasts from type 1 diabetic patients could reflect these genetic influences. On the other hand, alterations could be attributable not only to changes in DNA sequence, but also to epigenetic factors. Our aim is to make a critical overview of the studies involving primary cultures of skin fibroblasts as tools to investigate the pathophysiology of diabetic nephropathy performed until now in this area. Cultured skin fibroblasts could be useful not only for the identification of patients at risk of developing diabetic renal disease, but also for a better understanding of the complex multifactorial mechanisms leading to the long-term complications in diabetes.

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