Although macrophages are important players in the injury/repair processes in animal models of acute kidney injury (AKI), their roles in human AKI remains uncertain owing to a paucity of human biopsy studies. We investigated the role of macrophages in 72 cases of biopsy-proven acute tubular necrosis (ATN) and six cases of healthy kidney. Macrophages were identified by CD68 and CD163 immunohistochemistry and analyzed for their effect on renal outcomes. CD163+ M2 macrophages outnumbered CD68+ cells in the healthy kidneys, suggesting that CD163+ macrophages are resident macrophages. The infiltration of both subtypes of macrophages increased significantly in ATN. The density of the CD68+ macrophages was significantly higher in advanced-stage AKI, whereas CD163+ M2 macrophages was not. Eighty percent of patients exhibited renal functional recovery during follow-up. Older age and a higher density of CD163+ macrophages predicted non-recovery, whereas the AKI stage, tubular injury score, and density of CD68+ cells did not. The density of CD163+ M2 macrophages was an independent predictor of low eGFR at 3 months in advanced-stage AKI. This is the first human study demonstrating the possible role of macrophages in the injury and repair phases of AKI.
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