Precision Medicine for Acute Kidney Injury (AKI): Redefining AKI by Agnostic Kidney Tissue Interrogation and Genetics

Semin Nephrol. 2018 Jan;38(1):40-51. doi: 10.1016/j.semnephrol.2017.09.006.


Acute kidney injury (AKI) currently is diagnosed by a temporal trend of a single blood analyte: serum creatinine. This measurement is neither sensitive nor specific to kidney injury or its protean forms. Newer biomarkers, neutrophil gelatinase-associated lipocalin (NGAL, Lipocalin 2, Siderocalin), or kidney injury molecule-1 (KIM-1, Hepatitis A Virus Cellular Receptor 1), accelerate the diagnosis of AKI as well as prospectively distinguish rapidly reversible from prolonged causes of serum creatinine increase. Nonetheless, these biomarkers lack the capacity to subfractionate AKI further (eg, sepsis versus ischemia versus nephrotoxicity from medications, enzymes, or metals) or inform us about the primary and secondary sites of injury. It also is unknown whether all nephrons are injured in AKI, whether all cells in a nephron are affected, and whether injury responses can be stimulus-specific or cell type-specific or both. In this review, we summarize fully agnostic tissue interrogation approaches that may help to redefine AKI in cellular and molecular terms, including single-cell and single-nuclei RNA sequencing technology. These approaches will empower a shift in the current paradigm of AKI diagnosis, classification, and staging, and provide the renal community with a significant advance toward precision medicine in the analysis AKI.

Keywords: Kidney; acute kidney injury; biomarkers; single nuclei RNA sequencing; volume depletion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Kidney Injury / diagnosis*
  • Acute Kidney Injury / genetics
  • Acute Kidney Injury / pathology
  • Creatinine / blood
  • Humans
  • Precision Medicine*
  • Quantitative Trait Loci
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA


  • Creatinine