Introduction to Blood-based Biomarkers
Biomarkers, also known as biological markers, are identifiable and measurable substances that serve as indicators of biological processes, pathological conditions, or responses to medical treatments.
They can manifest as molecules, such as proteins and nucleic acids, or as cellular structures and imaging features.
Biomarkers play an important role in the early detection of diseases and medical conditions, as they provide accurate diagnoses of diseases.
They also help in the monitoring of disease development and treatment response in patients, which helps medical professionals create tailored treatment approaches for each patient’s unique biological characteristics.
In this introduction, we aim to explore what blood-based biomarkers are and how they can be used in medical treatments and research.
We will also review the different types of biomarkers out there, as not all biomarkers are found in the bloodstream.
What are blood-based biomarkers?
Blood-based biomarkers are measurable substances found in the blood. They can be proteins, nucleic acids, metabolites, or cells present in the bloodstream, and they can be obtained through a simple blood draw.
Blood-based biomarkers are therefore easily accessible for analysis, and the procedure to obtain them is minimally invasive.
Examples and uses of blood-based Biomarkers
Blood-based biomarkers provide valuable information on the health status of individuals, and they are commonly used in medical research and clinical trials to diagnose and diagnose conditions.
They can also be used in disease monitoring, as they provide insights into patient responses to different therapies.
Some examples include:
C-reactive protein (CRP)
CRPs are produced by the liver in response to inflammation.
Elevated levels of CRP can indicate the presence of inflammation, which is associated with infections, autoimmune diseases, and cardiovascular diseases.
Carcinoembryonic Antigen (CEA)
CEAs are proteins that can be used as a biomarker for certain types of cancer, such as colorectal cancer.
Elevated CEA levels in the bloodstream can indicate the presence of cancer which can be used in diagnosis.
By measuring CEA levels, medical professionals can also monitor cancer patient responses to various treatments.
Thymidine Kinase 1 (TK1)
TK1 is an enzyme involved in DNA synthesis and cell proliferation, and they are potential biomarkers for various types of cancers.
TK1 is present in dividing cells – when cancer cells proliferate, TK1 is released into the bloodstream during cell turnover or cell death.
Elevated levels of TK1 in the bloodstream are therefore associated with cancer or other conditions, and they can provide insights into tumor growth and patient response to cancer therapies.
Blood glucose levels can be used as biomarkers for diabetes. When there are high levels of glucose detected in the bloodstream, it can indicate impaired glucose regulation within an individual’s body and diabetes mellitus.
White blood cell count
White blood cells in the bloodstream are responsible for protecting against infection, and they are a part of the immune system.
Abnormalities in white blood cell counts can indicate various conditions, including autoimmune diseases, certain types of cancers, and infections inside the body.
Are all biomarkers blood-based?
While blood-based biomarkers have a wide range of applications in medical research and clinical practice, not all biomarkers are found in the bloodstream.
They can also be found in other bodily fluids, tissues, or even at the cellular level, and each type of biomarker can provide valuable insights into specific diseases or physiological processes.
Three common examples include:
Tissue-based biomarkers are derived from tissue samples, which are typically obtained through biopsies or surgical procedures.
They can include genetic mutations, protein levels, gene expression profiles, or histological features.
In medical research, tissue-based biomarker testing can provide valuable information about the molecular characteristics of a disease within specific organs or tissues.
Imaging biomarkers involves the use of medical imaging techniques.
These can include computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET), and more.
Imaging biomarkers can provide structural, functional, or molecular information on tissues and organs.
In medical research and clinical trials, this can be information related to tumor size.
Genetic biomarkers involve variations of DNA sequences that are associated with certain diseases or treatment responses.
These biomarkers can include single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), gene mutations, or gene expression patterns.
For diseases with strong genetic components, such as cancers or inherited disorders, genetic biomarkers provide immense value to diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment approaches.
Blood-based biomarkers are substances in the bloodstream that serve as indicators of biological processes and conditions.
In the context of medical research and treatment, these biomarkers play a pivotal role in the early detection of conditions and diseases, as well as the monitoring of patient responses to different treatments.
They also contribute to drug development as they provide objective measures of drug efficacy.
Over the years, there have been great strides taken in making disease treatment more accessible and affordable, and biomarker testing provides a minimally invasive avenue to breaking new ground in personalized medicine.