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A differential solute clearance technique has been developed that characterizes the human glomerulus as an ultrafiltration membrane and macromolecular sieve. Filtration and plasma flow markers as well as probe macromolecules of varying size charge are used to determine glomerular ultrafiltration capacity and barrier selectivity in acute and chronic renal injuries. The physiologic characterization of glomerular capillary wall dysfunction is augmented by morphometric analysis of glomeruli from biopsy material. Serial physiologic and morphometric evaluation of several chronic glomerular diseases is being used to elucidate the pathogenesis of progression to renal failure in man. A similar approach that includes an analysis of pathobiology of postischemic injury to proximal tubules is being used to elucidate the mechanisms of filtration failure in acute renal failure.