Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and acute lung injury (ALI) result in high permeability pulmonary edema causing hypoxic respiratory failure with high morbidity and mortality. As the population ages, the incidence of ALI is expected to rise. Over the last decade, several studies have identified biomarkers in plasma and bronchoalveolar lavage fluid providing important insights into the mechanisms involved in the pathophysiology of ALI. Several biomarkers have been validated in subjects from the large, multicenter ARDS clinical trials network. Despite these studies, no single or group of biomarkers has made it into routine clinical practice. New high throughput "omics" techniques promise improved understanding of the biologic processes in the pathogenesis in ALI and possibly new biomarkers that predict disease and outcomes. In this article, we review the current knowledge on biomarkers in ALI.