Miller School Pathologist’s Latest Study Contributes to Standardizing Analysis of Kidney Disorder

A new study led and co-authored by a University of Miami Miller School of Medicine researcher is helping to build the foundation for standardized analysis of nephrotic syndrome, a kidney disorder caused by damage to the small blood vessels that filter waste and excess water from the blood.

“Having accurate, reproducible and standardized data is vital for diagnosing and treating patients with kidney disease,” said Laura Barisoni, M.D. professor of pathology, and Division Chief of the Renal Pathology Service. She is also the chair of the pathology committee of the Nephrotic Syndrome Study Network (NEPTUNE), a collaborative international group has developed a pathology scoring system designed to improve patient outcomes.

“We want to combine quantitative pathology data with clinically relevant information using mathematical models at the individual and population levels,” said Barisoni, who is working closely with another NEPTUNE investigator, Alessia Fornoni, M.D., Ph.D., professor of medicine and Director of the Katz Family Drug Discovery Center. “Our ongoing work at NEPTUNE focuses on both precision medicine — improving outcomes for individual patients — and developing new algorithms that can predict the expected outcomes for groups of patients with common structural changes in their kidneys.”

Barisoni noted that the preliminary data for morphologic and morphometric digital profiles of renal biopsies are allowing NEPTUNE’s researchers to identify and study clusters of patients with similar outcomes and with common molecular pathways as potential candidate therapeutic targets.

“Because these clusters are different from conventional diagnostic groups, we are moving toward developing new clinically meaningful morpho-omic classifications for these diseases using computational approaches,” she said.

Barisoni was the lead author of “Reproducibility of the NEPTUNE Descriptor-Based Scoring System on Whole-Slide Images and Histologic and Ultrastructural Digital Images,” a multicenter study published recently in Modern Pathology. The NEPTUNE scoring system uses a novel quantitative and observational-based methodology to document pathologic features from whole-slide images, immunofluorescence and ultrastructural digital images.

“This study indicates that the NEPTUNE digital pathology scoring system is an effective model for standardization of renal biopsy interpretation,” said Barisoni. “Other international consortia have implemented the same scoring protocol in Europe and China. It is another step forward in increasing our understanding of kidney disease.”

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