The assessment of the glomerular filtration rate (GFR) is the most commonly used test of renal function. The accepted reference procedure employs an exogenous clearance marker whilst the most popular test is that of serum or plasma creatinine. All of these tests have limitations, although the surrogate endogenous markers are the most practical. Cystatin C, a low molecular weight protein which can be measured by light scattering immunoassay, possesses many of the attributes required of the ideal GFR marker. Data on reference ranges indicate that circulating cystatin C levels reflect the variation in GFR throughout life and the marker demonstrates a better correlation with the reference procedure than serum creatinine.