Sex-Specific Computational Models of Kidney Function in Patients With Diabetes

Sangita Swapnasrita, Aurélie Carlier and Anita T. Layton

Published: 26 January 2022


The kidney plays an essential role in homeostasis, accomplished through the regulation of pH, electrolytes and fluids, by the building blocks of the kidney, the nephrons. One of the important markers of the proper functioning of a kidney is the glomerular filtration rate. Diabetes is characterized by an enlargement of the glomerular and tubular size of the kidney, affecting the afferent and efferent arteriole resistance and hemodynamics, ultimately leading to chronic kidney disease. We postulate that the diabetes-induced changes in kidney may exhibit significant sex differences as the distribution of renal transporters along the nephron may be markedly different between women and men, as recently shown in rodents. The goals of this study are to (i) analyze how kidney function is altered in male and female patients with diabetes, and (ii) assess the renal effects, in women and men, of an anti-hyperglycemic therapy that inhibits the sodium-glucose cotransporter 2 (SGLT2) in the proximal convoluted tubules. To accomplish these goals, we have developed computational models of kidney function, separate for male and female patients with diabetes. The simulation results indicate that diabetes enhances Na+ transport, especially along the proximal tubules and thick ascending limbs, to similar extents in male and female patients, which can be explained by the diabetes-induced increase in glomerular filtration rate. Additionally, we conducted simulations to study the effects of diabetes and SGLT2 inhibition on solute and water transport along the nephrons. Model simulations also suggest that SGLT2 inhibition raises luminal [Cl] at the macula densa, twice as much in males as in females, and could indicate activation of the tubuloglomerular feedback signal. By inducing osmotic diuresis in the proximal tubules, SGLT2 inhibition reduces paracellular transport, eventually leading to diuresis and natriuresis. Those effects on urinary excretion are blunted in women, in part due to their higher distal transport capacity.

Full Access Link: Frontiers in Physiology