Super-Resolution Ultrasound Imaging of Renal Vascular Alterations in Zucker Diabetic Fatty Rats during the Development of Diabetic Kidney Disease

Stinne Byrholdt Søgaard, Sofie Bech Andersen, Iman Taghavi, Mikkel Schou, Christina Christoffersen, Jens Christian Brings Jacobsen, Hans Martin Kjer, Carsten Gundlach, Amy McDermott, Jørgen Arendt Jensen, Michael Bachmann Nielsen, Charlotte Mehlin Sørensen

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Individuals with diabetes at risk of developing diabetic kidney disease (DKD) are challenging to identify using currently available clinical methods. Prognostic accuracy and initiation of treatment could be improved by a quantification of the renal microvascular rarefaction and the increased vascular tortuosity during the development of DKD. Super-resolution ultrasound (SRUS) imaging is an in vivo technique capable of visualizing blood vessels at sizes below 75 µm. This preclinical study aimed to investigate the alterations in renal blood vessels’ density and tortuosity in a type 2 diabetes rat model, Zucker diabetic fatty (ZDF) rats, as a prediction of DKD. Lean age-matched Zucker rats were used as controls. A total of 36 rats were studied, subdivided into ages of 12, 22, and 40 weeks. Measured albuminuria indicated the early stage of DKD, and the SRUS was compared with the ex vivo micro-computed tomography (µCT) of the same kidneys. Assessed using the SRUS imaging, a significantly decreased cortical vascular density was detected in the ZDF rats from 22 weeks of age compared to the healthy controls, concomitant with a significantly increased albuminuria. Already by week 12, a trend towards a decreased cortical vascular density was found prior to the increased albuminuria. The quantified vascular density in µCT corresponded with the in vivo SRUS imaging, presenting a consistently lower vascular density in the ZDF rats. Regarding vessel tortuosity, an overall trend towards an increased tortuosity was present in the ZDF rats. SRUS shows promise for becoming an additional tool for monitoring and prognosing DKD. In the future, large-scale animal studies and human trials are needed for confirmation.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3197
Issue number20
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Ultrasound localization microscopy
  • Diagnostic imaging
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Renal injury


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