Remarkable progress has been made in the past 10 years with regard to understanding the interplay of potent physiologic mediators in patients with acute lung injury. Because there are so many mediators and the interaction of these agents is complex, true insight into the process has been slow in coming. Clinical studies in ARDS, as well as sepsis, the leading cause of ARDS, have increased in number, size, and quality over this same period. Although none of these studies has produced an accepted new therapy for ARDS, each has laid the groundwork for more efficient and more elegant studies of the problem. The stage is now set for the real advances to be brought forward and put to rigorous, efficient clinical testing.