Biomarkers for the detection of renal fibrosis and prediction of renal outcomes: a systematic review

BMC Nephrol. 2017 Feb 20;18(1):72. doi: 10.1186/s12882-017-0490-0.


Background: Fibrosis is the unifying pathway leading to chronic kidney disease. Identifying biomarkers of fibrosis may help predict disease progression.

Methods: We performed a systematic review to evaluate the reliability of blood and urine biomarkers in identifying fibrosis on biopsy as well as predicting renal outcomes. Using MEDLINE and EMBASE, a two-stage search strategy was implemented. Stage I identified a library of biomarkers correlating with fibrosis on biopsy. Stage II evaluated the association between biomarkers identified in stage I, and renal outcomes. Only biomarkers with moderate positive correlation with fibrosis (r > 0.40) or acceptable area under the curve (AUC >0.65) advanced to stage II.

Results: Stage I identified 17 studies and 14 biomarkers. Five biomarkers met criteria to advance to stage II, but only three were independently associated with renal outcomes. Transforming growth factor β (TGF-β) correlated with fibrosis (r = 0.60), and was associated with 1.7-3.9 times the risk of worsening renal function in 426 patients. Monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1) diagnosed fibrosis with AUC of 0.66 and was associated with 2.3-11.0 times the risk of worsening renal function in 596 patients. Matrix metalloproteinase-2 (MMP-2) correlated with fibrosis (r = 0.41), and was associated with 2.5 times the risk of worsening renal function.

Conclusions: Given the heterogeneity of the data due to diverse patient populations along with differing renal outcomes, a meta-analysis could not be conducted. Nonetheless we can conclude from the published data that TGF-β, MCP-1 and MMP-2 may identify patients at risk for renal fibrosis and hence worse renal outcomes.

Keywords: Biomarkers; Chronic kidney disease; Fibrosis; Outcomes; Renal biopsy; Renal disease progression.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Area Under Curve
  • Biomarkers / metabolism*
  • Chemokine CCL2 / metabolism*
  • Disease Progression
  • Fibrosis
  • Humans
  • Kidney / pathology*
  • Kidney Diseases / metabolism*
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 2 / metabolism*
  • Prognosis
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / metabolism*


  • Biomarkers
  • CCL2 protein, human
  • Chemokine CCL2
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta
  • MMP2 protein, human
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 2