Understanding the Genetics Behind Your Glomerular Filtration Rate

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Understanding the Genetics Behind Your Glomerular Filtration Rate

Date of Content: November 8, 2023
Written by: Jess Gayo
Reviewed by: Maarit Tiirikainen, PhD



What is the Glomerular Filtration Rate?

If you’ve ever had your blood drawn for tests, you would have noticed many components in the results. One of them is your body’s (estimated) glomerular filtration rate or eGFR. Glomerular filtration is a fundamental process within the human kidneys, playing a crucial role in the body’s ability to regulate fluid balance and eliminate waste products. 

Situated in the renal corpuscle, the glomerulus is a network of tiny blood vessels tasked with filtering the blood to form urine. This filtration process, driven by the pressure gradient across the glomerular capillaries, allows essential substances like water, electrolytes, and small molecules to pass through the filtration barrier while retaining larger molecules like proteins and blood cells.

Fundamentally, glomerular filtration is an intricately calibrated system that preserves homeostasis by guaranteeing the removal of metabolic waste products without jeopardizing essential elements required for physiological processes. One of the most important markers of kidney function is the glomerular filtration rate (GFR), which measures the amount of fluid filtered by the glomerulus in a given amount of time. 

Since differences in the genes linked to this process can affect an individual’s vulnerability to kidney disorders, understanding the genetic foundations of glomerular filtration has become a focus of nephrology studies.

Glomerular filtration is essentially the cornerstone of kidney function, demonstrating the complex interactions between filtration barriers, blood arteries, and genetic factors in the coordination of this essential physiological function.

Glomerular Filtration Rate

Why is Glomerular Filtration Important?

The preservation of the body’s internal environment and general health depend critically on glomerular filtration. This process, which takes place in the kidneys and is the main means of eliminating waste and regulating fluid balance, is essential in preventing the build-up of toxic compounds in the blood. 

Glomerular filtration maintains the body’s delicate balance by allowing just those vital elements—water, electrolytes, and tiny molecules—to flow through while trapping larger molecules and cells.

One important metric for evaluating renal function is the GFR. When the GFR deviates from the normal range, it may be a sign of possible kidney disease. This information can help with early renal problem identification and prompt action. Moreover, individual differences in kidney function and susceptibility to renal disorders are influenced by the hereditary components of glomerular filtration. 

Comprehending these hereditary foundations is essential for customizing therapeutic strategies and creating focused treatments, ultimately improving our capacity to treat and avoid kidney-related illnesses.

What Affects Glomerular Filtration Rate?

Glomerular filtration rate (GFR) is influenced by various factors, including blood pressure, blood volume, and the permeability of the filtration barrier. Conditions such as hypertension can alter the pressure within the glomerular capillaries, impacting GFR. Changes in blood volume affect the rate at which blood is filtered in the kidneys. 

Additionally, alterations in the permeability of the glomerular filtration barrier, influenced by factors like inflammation, can impact GFR. Hormonal regulation, especially through the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system, also plays a crucial role. 

Genetic Factors

Genetic markers associated with glomerular filtration rate (GFR) provide valuable insights into the individual variability in kidney function and susceptibility to renal diseases.

Several genetic factors contribute to the regulation of GFR, influencing the efficiency of the glomerular filtration process. While the genetic landscape of GFR is complex and involves numerous genes, some key markers have been identified through research.


The SHROOM3 gene is involved in the regulation of cell shape and structure. Genetic variants in SHROOM3, such as the SNP rs17319721, have been linked to an increased risk of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) and reduced GFR. This gene is thought to play a role in the maintenance of the glomerular filtration barrier and overall kidney function.

APOL1 Gene

The APOL1 gene has been implicated in kidney disease susceptibility. Variants in this gene are associated with an increased risk of chronic kidney disease (CKD) and end-stage renal disease (ESRD). These variants may impact the permeability of the glomerular filtration barrier, influencing GFR.


The UMOD gene encodes uromodulin, a protein expressed in the kidneys. Uromodulin plays a role in regulating water and electrolyte balance. Genetic variations (such as SNP rs11864909) in UMOD have been linked to changes in GFR. Certain UMOD mutations are associated with a higher risk of CKD, emphasizing the gene’s relevance to kidney function.


The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) gene is involved in cell growth and differentiation. Variations in this gene have been linked to changes in GFR, impacting renal function. EGF is part of the complex interplay of growth factors influencing the maintenance of glomerular structure and function.

NOS3 Gene

Nitric oxide synthase 3 (NOS3) produces nitric oxide, a molecule involved in blood vessel dilation. Genetic variations in NOS3 have been associated with endothelial dysfunction and altered renal blood flow, potentially impacting GFR. Dysfunction in nitric oxide signaling can contribute to the development of renal disorders.

LifeDNA’s GFR Genetic Markers

A study with 432 participants with Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)identified eight gene variants (SNPs) linked to CKD risk, including CX3CR1, MTTP, PIP5K1B, APOA5, BRAP, SPATA5L1, and MCP1. Notably, specific SNPs in BRAP and SPATA5L1 were significantly associated with the eGFR. Furthermore, a genetic risk score (GRS) using the 8 SNPs was developed, and it could indicate up to a 17% higher risk for CKD. 

Understanding genetic factors for GFR and CKD is crucial for personalized medicine and targeted interventions in the realm of nephrology. Genetic testing and research continue to unveil the intricate relationship between genetic variants and renal function, paving the way for advancements in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of kidney diseases.

Environmental Factors

Numerous non-genetic factors can affect the glomerular filtration rate (GFR), a crucial measure of kidney function. The intricate interplay of physiological systems that control renal function can also be influenced by these extrinsic factors. For the purpose of understanding kidney health and developing strategies to maintain optimal filtration rates, it is imperative to appreciate how environmental influences affect GFR.

Hydration Status

Drinking adequate amounts of water is essential to preserving GFR. Dehydration can cause blood volume to drop and blood viscosity to rise, which can change the pressure inside glomerular capillaries. This pressure change might affect the rate of filtration, which highlights how crucial it is to stay properly hydrated for the best possible kidney function.

Blood Pressure

Systemic blood pressure is a major factor in the control of GFR. Over time, glomerular capillaries may sustain damage from hypertension, or high blood pressure, which could result in a reduction in GFR. On the other hand, decreased blood pressure can lower the glomerulus’s filtration pressure, which would be detrimental to GFR.

Blood Glucose Levels

High blood sugar, which is a symptom of diabetes, can affect GFR and cause renal injury. Reduced GFR is frequently caused by diabetic nephropathy, a kidney condition associated with diabetes. Maintaining blood glucose control is essential for avoiding problems associated with diabetes, such as reduced kidney function.

Medications and Toxins

Nephrotoxic effects can be caused by some drugs and environmental pollutants, which can affect GFR directly. Substances that can impair renal function include exposure to heavy metals, some medicines, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs). Maintaining GFR requires reducing exposure to nephrotoxic chemicals and being aware of the negative effects of medications.

Dietary Habits

Dietary choices influence GFR through their impact on blood pressure and metabolic factors. High-sodium diets can contribute to hypertension, affecting GFR. Additionally, excessive protein intake may increase the glomerular filtration load, potentially straining the kidneys over time.

Physical Activity

Frequent exercise is linked to cardiovascular health, which has an impact on GFR. Exercise supports good kidney function by promoting healthy blood pressure and cardiovascular health in general. Dehydration can result from strenuous physical activity without adequate hydration, which may have an impact on GFR.

Infections and Inflammation

Infections and inflammatory conditions can affect GFR by triggering immune responses and altering the permeability of the glomerular filtration barrier. Inflammatory kidney conditions, such as glomerulonephritis, can lead to decreased GFR.

Temperature and Climate

Environmental temperature can impact fluid balance and, consequently, GFR. Extreme heat can lead to increased fluid loss through sweating, potentially causing dehydration and affecting renal blood flow.


Changes in altitude can influence oxygen levels in the blood and systemic blood pressure, which may impact GFR. Individuals living at higher altitudes may experience adaptations in renal function to compensate for lower oxygen levels.


Chronic stress and the associated activation of the sympathetic nervous system can lead to changes in blood pressure and systemic vascular resistance, potentially affecting GFR. Stress management strategies are crucial for overall health, including kidney function.

Numerous environmental and lifestyle factors that impact general health and well-being can have an impact on the eGFR. Maintaining kidney function and stopping the onset or progression of renal diseases need effective management of these outside factors.

Maintaining optimal GFR requires a comprehensive approach to health that includes blood pressure management, a balanced diet, lifestyle choices, and adequate hydration.

Is the Glomerular Filtration Rate Reversible?

Although some elements that affect GFR, including blood pressure fluctuations or dehydration, can be corrected with the right treatments, the GFR itself cannot be changed.

Dehydration is one of the factors that might cause a transient drop in GFR because it changes the filtration pressure and blood volume. Rehydrating and treating the underlying cause are frequently sufficient to return GFR to normal. Similar to this, some drugs or lifestyle modifications may have a favorable effect on GFR.

However, structural damage to the kidneys in situations of chronic kidney disease (CKD) or other persistent renal diseases may result in a persistent decline in GFR that is not entirely reversible. In these situations, the main goals of treatment are usually to control the underlying illness, reduce the rate at which the disease progresses, and treat the symptoms.

Some influences on GFR are reversible through appropriate measures but the overall GFR is a dynamic parameter influenced by various factors, and its reversibility depends on the underlying cause and the extent of structural damage to the kidneys.

Ways to Maintain Good Glomerular Filtration Rate

Maintaining a healthy Glomerular Filtration Rate (GFR) is essential for kidney function and overall well-being. While individual factors can vary, there are several lifestyle modifications and habits that may contribute to improving GFR and supporting optimal kidney health.


Adequate hydration is crucial for optimal kidney function. Staying well-hydrated helps maintain blood volume and supports the kidneys in efficiently filtering waste products. Water intake should be adjusted based on individual needs, considering factors like climate, physical activity, and overall health.

Balanced Diet

Adopting a balanced and nutrient-rich diet is vital for kidney health. Focus on consuming a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Limit salt intake, as excessive sodium can contribute to hypertension and impact GFR. Additionally, moderate protein intake is recommended, as very high protein diets may strain the kidneys.

Regular Physical Activity

Engaging in regular exercise contributes to cardiovascular health and helps maintain optimal blood pressure levels. Cardiovascular activities, such as walking, jogging, or swimming, can support overall kidney function. However, intense and prolonged exercise without adequate hydration should be avoided to prevent dehydration-related stress on the kidneys.

Control Blood Pressure

Hypertension is a significant risk factor for kidney disease and reduced GFR. Monitoring and controlling blood pressure within the recommended range can help preserve kidney function. Lifestyle modifications, including a low-sodium diet, regular exercise, and stress management, are effective in managing blood pressure.

Manage Blood Sugar Levels

It’s critical for diabetics to keep their blood sugar levels steady. Diabetic nephropathy, a disorder that can eventually deteriorate kidney function, is a result of uncontrolled diabetes. To manage diabetes and maintain kidney health, lifestyle changes, medication adherence, and regular blood sugar testing are crucial.

Avoid Nephrotoxic Substances

Certain medications, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), some antibiotics, and excessive use of certain other over-the-counter medications, can have nephrotoxic effects. It’s crucial to use medications as directed by healthcare professionals and avoid unnecessary exposure to substances that may harm kidney function.

Quit Smoking

Smoking has been linked to a higher risk of kidney disease and can contribute to the progression of existing renal conditions. Quitting smoking is a positive step toward improving overall kidney health and preserving GFR.

Limit Alcohol Intake

Excessive alcohol consumption can contribute to high blood pressure and liver disease, both of which can impact kidney function. Moderating alcohol intake supports overall health and kidney function.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

Being overweight is associated with an increased risk of kidney disease. Adopting a healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet and regular physical activity can help achieve and maintain a healthy weight, reducing the risk of kidney-related complications.

Regular Health Check-ups

Regular monitoring of kidney function through routine health check-ups, including blood tests to assess GFR and other kidney markers, allows for early detection of potential issues. Timely intervention can help manage and slow the progression of kidney disease.

Adopting a holistic approach to health that includes hydration, a balanced diet, regular exercise, and healthy lifestyle choices is instrumental in supporting and potentially improving your Glomerular Filtration Rate. Individualized recommendations should be discussed with healthcare professionals based on personal health conditions and needs.

LifeDNA’s Glomerular Filtration Rate Report

Unlock the secrets to your kidney health with LifeDNA’s Glomerular Filtration Rate (GFR) Report. Our comprehensive analysis provides valuable insights into your kidney function, helping you understand and optimize your overall well-being. 

Discover personalized recommendations to support a healthy GFR, backed up by cutting-edge genetic insights. But that’s not all – elevate your wellness journey with LifeDNA’s complete Vitamins & Supplements Report. Dive deep into the intricacies of your nutritional needs and explore tailored recommendations for a healthier, more vibrant you. 

Don’t miss out on our informative reads like the genetics of Vitamin K and Vitamin A for additional wellness wisdom. Take control of your wellness today and embark on a journey to a healthier, more informed lifestyle. Start with LifeDNA today. 


  • The glomerulus, a network of microscopic blood arteries located in the renal corpuscle, is responsible for filtering blood to create urine.
  • An essential function of the kidneys in humans is glomerular filtration, which is vital to the body’s capacity to control fluid balance and get rid of waste.  
  • The amount of fluid filtered by the glomerulus in a specific amount of time is measured by the glomerular filtration rate or GFR. 
  • Glomerular filtration traps larger molecules and cells while permitting just certain elements—water, electrolytes, and small molecules—to pass through, preserving the body’s delicate equilibrium.
  • Genetic indicators linked to glomerular filtration rates (GFR) offer important insights into the variation in kidney function and the vulnerability of the kidneys to various illnesses. External factors can potentially impact the complex interaction of physiological systems that govern renal function.
  • A holistic approach to health, incorporating blood pressure management, a balanced diet, lifestyle choices, and appropriate hydration, is necessary to maintain healthy GFR.


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  2. https://www.ucsfhealth.org/medical-tests/glomerular-filtration-rate#:~:text=Definition,through%20the%20glomeruli%20each%20minute.
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4317173/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6002812/#:~:text=Decline%20in%20kidney%20function%20measured,steeper%20after%20development%20of%20albuminuria.
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34828293/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8535213/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6533959/
  8. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0185476
  9. https://bmcnephrol.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12882-020-1686-2#:~:text=In%20this%20population%2Dbased%20study,were%20associated%20with%20lower%20GFR.
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK553144/
  11. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/earth-and-planetary-sciences/ultrafiltration
  12. https://www.healthline.com/health/kidney-disease/can-gfr-be-improved#about-gfr
  13. https://www.upmc.com/services/transplant/kidney-pancreas/glomerular-filtration-rate-calculator

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*Understanding your genetics can offer valuable insights into your well-being, but it is not deterministic. Your traits can be influenced by the complex interplay involving nature, lifestyle, family history, and others.

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