Word of the day: Biomarkers

Leah Eisenstadt, July 7th, 2011 | Filed under

Last week on the Broad website, we told you about a new approach to detect and verify biomarkers, using the search for signals of heart attack as a test case. In this study, the team of scientists from the Broad Institute and Massachusetts General Hospital looked for proteins in the blood that are released when heart cells are injured and that can be detected quickly after the attack.

While the term “biomarker” is often used to refer to proteins, a biomarker is actually any measurable indicator of a specific biological state, usually relevant to disease. Even height and blood pressure are biomarkers, although the term is generally used today as shorthand for “molecular biomarker.” In this sense, biomarkers can range from proteins to messenger RNA, metabolites, and the presence of methyl group “tags” on DNA.

Our colleagues in the Proteomics Platform, who have created a nice overview of the term here, built a pipeline for protein biomarker discovery and validation and are applying it to cancer, cardiovascular disease, and infectious disease.

Explore the Broad website for more information on the Proteomics Platform and the Metabolite Profiling Initiative, which is also searching for biomarkers of disease.

Or read more about the methods used by Broad scientists in the hunt for novel biomarkers.