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Nephron. 2015;129(4):276-82. doi: 10.1159/000381195. Epub 2015 Apr 2.

Nephrosclerosis: a term in quest of a disease.

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Service de Néphrologie, AP-HP, Hôpital Georges Pompidou, Université Paris-Descartes, Paris, France.


For a century, nephrosclerosis was ascribed to nonmalignant hypertension and aging. However, it was intuitively perceived that hypertension may follow rather than explain this nephrovasculopathy. Hypertensive nephrosclerosis was long considered a major cause of end-stage renal failure (ESRD). This is especially true in blacks of African descent but not in other ethnic populations. The term 'nephrosclerosis' is still an easy way out to classify a patient with renal insufficiency. This leads to neglect the possibility of an overlooked nephropathy complicated by hypertension and to believe that drastic blood pressure control may retard the progression to ESRD. Several clinical and experimental lines of evidence lead to the understanding that nephrosclerosis, especially in blacks, is a genetic renovasculopathy that precedes the rise in blood pressure. The identification of coding region variants in APOL1 encoding apolipoprotein L-1 in black but also white and Asians opens new lines of research on the genetics of nephroangiosclerosis and of FSGS. Metabolic derangements, such as obesity, oxidative stress, dyslipidemia and atherosclerosis may be considered confounding factors with regard to nephrosclerosis. Histomorphometric studies led to sorting out the lesions due to aging from those stemming from hypertension. They shed new light not only on glomerular lesions that comprise ischemic obsolescence but also on glomerulomegaly and focal-segmental sclerosis, the latter due to a loss of renal autoregulation. It appears that the control of hypertension is not credited with the expected benefit for slowing the decline of renal function. 'Nephrosclerosis' can be considered an umbrella term of poor significance that should be replaced by its pathologic description, that is, arterionephrosclerosis and incite to elucidate the various genetic and metabolic factors that lead to a lesion in quest of a specific disease.

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