It is increasingly apparent that not only is a cure for the current worldwide diabetes epidemic required, but also for its major complications, affecting both small and large blood vessels. These complications occur in the majority of individuals with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Among the most prevalent microvascular complications are kidney disease, blindness, and amputations, with current therapies only slowing disease progression. Impaired kidney function, exhibited as a reduced glomerular filtration rate, is also a major risk factor for macrovascular complications, such as heart attacks and strokes. There have been a large number of new therapies tested in clinical trials for diabetic complications, with, in general, rather disappointing results. Indeed, it remains to be fully defined as to which pathways in diabetic complications are essentially protective rather than pathological, in terms of their effects on the underlying disease process. Furthermore, seemingly independent pathways are also showing significant interactions with each other to exacerbate pathology. Interestingly, some of these pathways may not only play key roles in complications but also in the development of diabetes per se. This review aims to comprehensively discuss the well validated, as well as putative mechanisms involved in the development of diabetic complications. In addition, new fields of research, which warrant targets of the future, will be highlighted. ? 2013 the American Physiological Society.