We have probably all heard of MRI - Magnetic Resonance Imaging (a spin off modification from the widely used Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy technique used by many research chemists, and the main tool I used in my PhD and other research in chemistry). Now, a variation on MRI can be used to detect kidney damage. The technique was developed by Osaka University researchers, in collaboration with several Japanese companies
The variation is called Diffusion tensor MRI (DTI) and ..."is ideal for detecting kidney damage, because the main functions of the kidney are all related to water movement,” explains Osaka University Professor and Surgeon Shiro Takahara. (Water in the target is what the MRI process is actually recording in the image maps shown as an MRI scan.) The article itself (linked to above) is a bit technically orientated unfortunately.
The technique is very useful as patients with diabetes are well-known to beat a high risk of developing chronic kidney disease. To identify which diabatic patients have higher risk, non-invasive technologies such as MRI are useful because they can detect abnormal perfusion in the kidneys, which could be signs of renal fibrosis, which is an early sign of kidney failure.
At the present moment, the technique is still at the development stage, but if further refined could be rolled out as a useful diagnostic technique.