Acute kidney injury (AKI) is a common, heterogeneous, and detrimental clinical condition that has significant attributable morbidity and mortality. Despite major advances in understanding the epidemiology, pathogenesis, and outcomes of AKI, preventive measures remain inadequate and therapeutic approaches (except for renal replacement therapy) have largely proven futile so far. Critical to the process of designing rational therapies is translational research, which involves the transition between the basic research discoveries and everyday clinical applications to prevent, diagnose, and treat human diseases. Progress in innovative approaches has been hampered due in part to the reliance on functional markers (serum creatinine and blood urea nitrogen) that are neither sensitive nor specific to diagnose AKI. This limitation has created a great deal of interest and intense investigation to identify a "troponin-like marker" that would facilitate recognition of AKI and allow for timely implementation of the precise therapeutic agent. The other major obstacle in this field is the diverse and complex nature of AKI that involves multiple independent and overlapping pathways, making it difficult to cure AKI with a single approach. In this review, we will summarize the advances, ongoing studies, and future perspectives in the field of translational research of AKI. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.