Recent advances in understanding and treating nephrotic syndrome

Agnieszka Bierzynska, Moin Saleem

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)
249 Downloads (Pure)


Idiopathic nephrotic syndrome (INS) is one of the most common glomerular diseases in children and adults, and the central event is podocyte injury. INS is a heterogeneous disease, and treatment is largely empirical and in many cases unsuccessful, and steroids are the initial mainstay of therapy. Close to 70% of children with INS have some response to steroids and are labelled as steroid-'sensitive', and the rest as steroid-'resistant' (also termed focal segmental glomerulosclerosis), and single-gene mutations underlie a large proportion of the latter group. The burden of morbidity is enormous, both to patients with lifelong chronic disease and to health services, particularly in managing dialysis and transplantation. The target cell of nephrotic syndrome is the glomerular podocyte, and podocyte biology research has exploded over the last 15 years. Major advances in genetic and biological understanding now put clinicians and researchers at the threshold of a major reclassification of the disease and testing of targeted therapies both identified and novel. That potential is based on complete genetic analysis, deep clinical phenotyping, and the introduction of mechanism-derived biomarkers into clinical practice. INS can now be split off into those with a single-gene defect, of which currently at least 53 genes are known to be causative, and the others. Of the others, the majority are likely to be immune-mediated and caused by the presence of a still-unknown circulating factor or factors, and whether there is a third (or more) mechanistic group or groups remains to be discovered. Treatment is therefore now being refined towards separating out the monogenic cases to minimise immunosuppression and further understanding how best to stratify and appropriately direct immunosuppressive treatments within the immune group. Therapies directed specifically towards the target cell, the podocyte, are in their infancy but hold considerable promise for the near future.

Original languageEnglish
Article number121
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 9 Feb 2017


  • idiopathic nephrotic syndrome
  • minimal change nephrotic syndrome,
  • MCNS
  • focal segmental glomerulosclerosis
  • FSGS
  • SRNS


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