An abrupt change in serum creatinine, the most common indicator of acute kidney injury (AKI), is strongly linked to poor outcomes across multiple clinical settings. Despite endless attempts to distill the magnitude and timing of a changing serum creatinine into a standardized metric, singular focus on this traditional functional marker obligates the characterization of AKI to remain, at best, retrospective and causally noninformative. The resultant inability to meaningfully segregate critical aspects of injury such as type, onset, propagation, and recovery from ongoing decrements in renal function has hindered successful translation of promising therapeutics. Over the past decade, however, the emerging field of clinical proteomics reinvigorates hope of identifying novel plasma and urine biomarkers to characterize cause and course of kidney injury. Efforts to validate these markers for use in clinical studies now show early promise but face important obstacles including interpretive difficulties inherent in using serum creatinine as a sole comparator for diagnostic performance, a need to better evaluate the incremental performance of new markers above established clinical and biochemical predictors, a relative lack of power to sufficiently examine hard clinical end points, and a potential over-reliance on use alone of receiver operating curves for assessing biomarker utility. Here, we discuss efforts to address these barriers and further ascertain the clinical value of new markers.
Copyright © 2011 by the American Society of Nephrology