The emerging role of MRI in quantitative renal glomerular morphology

K. M. Bennett, John F. Bertram, Scott C. Beeman, Norbert Gretz

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Techniques to measure morphological parameters, such as glomerular (and thereby nephron) number, glomerular size, and kidney volume, have been vital to understanding factors contributing to chronic kidney disease (CKD). These techniques have also been important to understanding the associations between CKD and other systemic and cardiovascular diseases and have led to the identification of developmental risk factors for these pathologies. However, existing techniques in quantitative kidney morphology are resource- and time-consuming and are destructive to the organ. This review discusses the emerging generation of techniques to study kidney morphology quantitatively using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) using the intravenous injection of the superparamagnetic nanoparticle cationic ferritin, which binds to the glomerular basement membrane. A primary advantage of MRI over previously established techniques is the ability to quantify morphology in the intact organ with minimal sample preparation. We highlight areas of research where MRI-based morphological measurements will be helpful in animal models and possibly diagnostic clinical nephrology, discuss technical challenges in light of the progress in MRI techniques to date, and identify novel measurements that may be possible using MRI, both ex vivo and in vivo.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1252-1257
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Renal Physiology
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2013


  • Glomerular counting
  • Glomerular filtration rate
  • Glomerular sizing
  • Kidney
  • MRI
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Stereology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Urology


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