Nephroprotective effects of GLP-1 receptor agonists: where do we stand?

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Glucagon-like peptide (GLP)-1 receptor agonists are the cornerstone in the treatment of hyperglycemia in many people suffering from type 2 diabetes (T2D). These drugs have potent glucose-lowering actions and, additionally, lower body weight through satiety induction while reducing blood pressure and dyslipidemia. Partly through these actions, GLP-1 receptor agonism was shown to reduce cardiovascular disease (CVD) in people with T2D with previous CVD or at high-risk thereof. In these cardiovascular safety trials, in secondary or exploratory analyses, GLP-1 receptor agonists were also shown to reduce macro-albuminuria, an accepted surrogate marker for diabetic kidney disease (DKD), a condition that still represents a major unmet medical need. In this review we will discuss the evidence which suggests renoprotection induced by GLP-1 receptor agonists and the potential mechanisms that may be involved. These include mitigation of hyperglycemia, overweight and insulin resistance, systemic and glomerular hypertension, dyslipidemia, sodium retention, inflammation and renal hypoxia. The recently initiated large-sized FLOW trial investigating the effects of semaglutide on hard renal outcomes in patients with DKD will provide clarity whether GLP-1 receptor agonists may reduce the burden of DKD in addition to their other beneficial metabolic and cardiovascular effects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)965-975
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of nephrology
Issue number5
Early online date2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020


  • Albuminuria
  • Blood pressure
  • Diabetic kidney disease
  • GLP-1 receptor agonists
  • Incretin-based therapies

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