Biomarkers are key molecular or cellular forms linking specific environmental exposure to a health outcome. Biomarkers give a better understanding towards the relationship between exposure to the environment chemicals and initial stages of development of chronic human diseases. New research has helped in identifying and validating new biomarkers to be used in population based studies of environmental disease. Biomarkers form an indispensable part of personalized healthcare, but, the spectrum of biomarker cases and purposes is broad.
The main uses of biomarkers include:
- Measuring wellbeing and health, both physical and mental;
- Assessing disease susceptibility and risk;
- Grading disease severity;
- Predicting outcomes;
- Determining the optimal type of intervention, treatment, nutrition and so on;
- Evaluating response to therapies;
- Monitoring compliance;
- Forensic applications.
In developing a viable biomarker the primary consideration is to match the intended purpose with robustness, ease of use and sensitivity/specificity. Biomarkers used in predictions typically should involve substrates that are relatively stable over time. Types of biomarkers vary depending upon its use. Perera and Weinstein classified biomarkers based on the sequence of events from exposure to disease as shown in figure below.
Blood is one of the simplest biomarkers found in human body. Recent research has revealed the extent of using blood as a biomarker for diagnosing early onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
Genetic biomarkers are slowly gaining ground in research with this latest one on differentiating alzheimers disease and dementia with lewy bodies.
The recent research has shown the future of biomarkers with respect to early diagnosis in medicine. A new blood biomarker analysis has been demonstrated to predict short term mortality. Based on measurable biomarker patients are assigned to risk groups, estimating the risk of dying within next five years as compared to multifold with respect to general population. Engineers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MA, USA) have developed a simple and cheap paper test that aims to improve cancer detection rates, particularly in developing countries. The test works in line with that of pregnancy test can predict whether a person has a cancer using urine sample.