Scientists at PNNL are working to use biomarkers to detect cancers and diabetes, predict ecosystem change and damage, understand nanomaterial impact on respiratory health, and measure the response to zoonotic agents. Biomarkers can serve a variety of medical needs. They can be used to detect a disease in an individual in the early stages before that disease advances to become a serious illness.
In this role, biomarkers are used to screen either the general population or individuals who are considered at high risk for developing a disease. For example, levels of prostate-specific antigen PSA in the blood are used as a general marker of prostate cancer in men over 40 years old. Similarly, elevated glucose levels in the blood are indicative of diabetes.
Biomarkers can also be used to monitor a patient's response to drugs or other types of therapy. PSA levels generally are undetectable after prostate cancer surgery and glucose levels return to normal in properly treated diabetics. Although biomarkers are commonly used to detect a few diseases and to monitor some therapies, good protein biomarkers have not been identified for most medical needs. One of the greatest problems with finding useful biomarkers is that normal protein levels are highly variable among individuals.
Factors such as age, race, and diet can alter biomarker levels in both healthy and diseased individuals. Because of this variability, it is difficult to distinguish whether a person has a disease based on a single biomarker. It is believed that the use of multiple biomarkers, in other words, a biomarker profile, will be more useful.
Recent advances in proteomic technologies, such as mass spectrometry, have greatly improved the ability to discover and validate protein profiles as biomarkers. Mass spectrometry is now widely used in proteomic studies and is being applied to routine analysis of proteins in blood and other clinical samples to discover new protein profiles. However, proteomic technology cannot yet be used to clearly define biomarker profiles that will be truly useful in a clinical setting, because it cannot efficiently process a large enough sample number nor provide true quantitative data.
PNNL researchers are working to overcome these deficits by developing a Next Generation Proteomics Platform using new gas phase separation technologies that vastly improve throughput. Use of Molecular Probes. Human Health Considerations. Patterns of Biomarker Response. Implementation of Biomarker-Based Studies.
Selection and Characterization of Study Sites. Selection of Species. Abundance of Species. Life History Characteristics.
Baseline Toxicological Information on a Species. Biomarker Selection.
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Biomarkers of Exposure. Biomarkers of Toxic Effect. Sampling Methodology. Biological Variables. Abiotic Variables. Biomarker Analysis. Chemical Analysis. Archiving of Samples. Interpretation of Biomarker Responses. Biological Interpretation of Biomarkers. Exposure and Effect. Diagnosis and Prediction. Statistical and Mathematical Techniques for Interpretation.
Choosing Analyses to Answer Assessment Questions. Some Statistical and Mathematical Approaches. Study Designs. Mathematical Models. Societal Interpretations. Environmental Quality. Human Health. Development and Validation of Biomarkers. The Ideal Biomarker. One of these priority areas is exposure assessment methods.
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Methods may be defined as "tools, approaches, and strategies that are used in, or enable, the conduct of exposure assessments in the workplace. To completely understand how biomarkers and research could be augmented, strengthened, developed, and applied to key exposure assessment issues, the NORA Exposure Assessment Methods Team sponsored a workshop entitled "Applying Biomarkers to Occupational Health Practice" in Santa Fe, N. The workshop was designed to bring together individuals studying worker populations, researchers developing and validating new biomarkers, and occupational health practitioners in order to foster future collaborations and identify research gaps and priorities in the application of biomarkers to occupational health practice.
Since air concentrations of occupational toxicants represent only potential exposures and many workplace exposures occur through the dermal route, a primary workshop goal was to improve the understanding of biomarkers and promote their effective application in estimating exposure to occupational hazards. Biomarkers can help determine actual exposures and subsequent effects of those exposures.
Related Biomarkers: Research and Application in the Assessment of Environmental Health
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