Medical science has found vaccines, cures and treatments for many ailments that have plagued humankind for generations. Research continues each day with more and more breakthroughs occurring. Scientists have been working for decades for a cure for cancer. While many forms of the deadly disease have been successfully treated, there is far more work to be done to eliminate the threat of all cancer. The use of biomarkers has been a boon to cancer and other clinical research. There are even digital biomarkers.
What a Biomarker Is
Biomarkers are indicators of a particular biological state or condition. They are measurable and can be used to evaluate biological, pharmacological or pathological responses to a therapeutic intervention. They are generally measured by evaluating soft tissue or a bodily fluid such as blood, sweat or urine. Biomarkers can be utilized to monitor the effectiveness of a treatment in curing a disease. There are different types of biomarkers.
History of Biomarkers
The use of the term “biomarker” first became prevalent in 1980. Throughout the decade, however, environmental studies still relied on the use of chemical substances, some toxic. As the use of biomarkers developed, the reactions of organisms could be studied as biomarkers to detect the presence of harmful compounds in water and soil.
Diagnostic biomarkers can be used to narrow down a diagnosis to help suit it to an individual patient. A biomarker may be a substance introduced into a body for the purpose of tracking the function of an organ or some aspect of health. Rubidium chloride is a radioactive isotope that is often used as a biomarker to diagnose the health of heart muscle. A luminex angiogenesis panel can be used to track multiple proteins and thus the spread of cancer cells.
Other diagnostic biomarkers might be indicators of the presence of disease. For example, the discovery of an antibody would be an alert of an infection. Changes in the states of proteins used as biomarkers can be indicators of how far along a disease has progressed.
Biomarkers that are cellular, imaging, or molecular can be used to predict the outcome of a clinical treatment. These predictive biomarkers are very useful in determining a course of therapy that is likely to be successful in treating a specific patient. With the use of these biomarkers, research can be both observational and predictive, making it more effective in coming up with treatments.
With the rise in computer technology has come digital biomarkers. The best example of these is in the apps available for cell phones and smart watches that track health data. They measure pulse, heart rate, respiration, the number of steps you take and even the number of calories burned. Digital biomarkers are revolutionary as they allow the average person to monitor their own biomarkers in an easy to use fashion. This can be very helpful in planning diet and exercise programs as well as looking out for one’s own health.
The use of biomarkers has been a boost to medical science. The ability to accurately predict a treatment and to diagnose a problem aids research, prevention and treatment of diseases.