Background: An increase in neutrophil gelatinase-associated lipocalin (NGAL) indicates tubular injury. Diabetic nephropathy causes typical changes in the kidney, characterized by glomerulosclerosis and eventual tubular damage. We validated the usefulness of plasma NGAL (pNGAL) as a biomarker of tubular damage in patients with diabetic nephropathy. Methods: We included 376 patients with diabetes mellitus (260 patients with chronic renal insufficiency who had not received hemodialysis and 116 hemodialyzed due to diabetic nephropathy) and 24 healthy controls. Patients with chronic renal insufficiency were divided into three groups according to urinary albumin excretion (UAE) levels. pNGAL levels were measured using the Triage NGAL test (Alere, San Diego, CA, USA) and were compared between groups. We also examined whether pNGAL level was related to the degree of albuminuria and cystatin C-based glomerular filtration rate (GFR). Results: Mean pNGAL levels of the healthy controls, chronic renal insufficiency patients with diabetes mellitus, and hemodialyzed patients were 61.9±5.3 ng/mL, 93.4±71.8 ng/mL, and 1,536.9±554.9 ng/mL, respectively. pNGAL level increased significantly in patients with severe albuminuria (P<0.001) and had a moderate correlation with the degree of albuminuria (r=0.467; P<0.001) and GFR (r=0.519; P<0.001). Multivariate regression analysis showed that the pNGAL level was associated with tubular damage independent of patient age, sex, and GFR. Conclusions: pNGAL level independently reflects the degree of tubular damage in patients with diabetic nephropathy. Measurement of pNGAL, combined with UAE, would enable simultaneous, highly reliable assessments of tubular damage for such patients.
- Diabetic nephropathy
- Neutrophil gelatinase-associated lipocalin
- Tubular damage