Significance: Acute kidney injury (AKI) and chronic kidney disease (CKD) represent a considerable burden in healthcare. The heme oxygenase (HO) system plays an important role in regulating oxidative stress and is protective in a variety of human and animal models of kidney disease. Preclinical studies of the HO system have led to the development of several clinical trials targeting the enzyme or its products. Recent Advances: Connection of HO, ferritin, and other proteins involved in iron regulation has provided important insight into mechanisms of damage in AKI. Also, HO-1 expression is important in the pathogenesis of hypertension, diabetic kidney disease, and progression to end-stage renal disease. Critical Issues: Despite intriguing discoveries, no drugs targeting the HO system have been translated to the clinic. Meanwhile, treatments for AKI and CKD are urgently needed. Many factors have likely contributed to challenges in clinical translation, including variation in animal models, difficulties in obtaining human tissue, and complexity of the disease processes being studied. Future Directions: The HO system represents a promising avenue of investigation that may lead to targeted therapeutics. Tissue-specific gene modulation, widening the scope of animal studies, and continued clinical research will provide valuable insight into the role HO plays in kidney homeostasis and disease. Antioxid.