Treatments in Endocrinology

, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp 211–222 | Cite as

The Role of Glycosaminoglycans and Sulodexide in the Treatment of Diabetic Nephropathy

Leading Article


Diabetic nephropathy occurs in 20–40% of diabetic patients, making it one of the most important causes of end-stage renal disease (ESRD). It has a large impact in terms of associated morbidity and mortality for the individual patient and in terms of costs for healthcare. Several studies have demonstrated that micro- and macroalbuminuria predict cardiovascular morbidity and mortality in patients with diabetes mellitus.

Current nephroprotective therapies for diabetic nephropathy include the pursuit of normoglycemia and normotension, and a consensus is emerging that there is a necessity to also achieve as low a level of albuminuria as possible. However, the search for innovative and ancillary approaches to the prevention and treatment of this diabetic complication is warranted since strict metabolic control can be difficult, and sometimes dangerous, to achieve and even diabetic patients responding to ACE inhibitors (ACEIs) or angiotensin II receptor antagonists (angiotensin receptor blockers; ARBs) and metabolic control show progressive renal damage and eventually ESRD. A number of drugs are currently being investigated; glycosaminoglycans are particularly interesting since, in theory, they target the generalized endothelial dysfunction and metabolic defect in matrix and basement membrane synthesis which, according to the Steno hypothesis, are responsible for diabetic nephropathy and macroangiopathy.

Treatment with glycosaminoglycans, and with sulodexide in particular, significantly improves albuminuria in type 1 and type 2 diabetic patients with micro- or macroalbuminuria. The albuminuria-lowering effect of sulodexide enhances the effect of ACEI/ARB therapy. Most studies have shown that the effect of sulodexide on albuminuria is sustained, strongly suggesting that favorable chemical and anatomic remodeling is induced by exogenous glycosaminoglycans in renal tisues, as observed in the experimental model.



Prof. Gambaro has served as a consultant to Alfa Wassermann SpA, Bologna, Italy. Dr Abaterusso has no conflicts of interest that are relevant to the content of this review. Preparation of this review article was supported by the program Prin 2004 of the Italian Ministry of the University and of Scientific and Technological Research, funding Professor Gambaro.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biomedical and Surgical Sciences, Division of NephrologyUniversity of VeronaVeronaItaly

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