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Molecular Biomarkers

In medicine, a biomarker is a measurable indicator of the severity or presence of some disease state. More generally a biomarker is anything that can be used as an indicator of a particular disease state or some other physiological state of an organism.

A biomarker can be a substance that is introduced into an organism as a means to examine organ function or other aspects of health. For example, rubidium chloride is used in isotopic labeling to evaluate perfusion of heart muscle. It can also be a substance whose detection indicates a particular disease state, for example, the presence of an antibody may indicate an infection. More specifically, a biomarker indicates a change in expression or state of a protein that correlates with the risk or progression of a disease, or with the susceptibility of the disease to a given treatment. Biomarkers can be characteristic biological properties or molecules that can be detected and measured in parts of the body like the blood or tissue. They may indicate either normal or diseased processes in the body. Biomarkers can be specific cells, molecules, or genes, gene products, enzymes, or hormones. Complex organ functions or general characteristic changes in biological structures can also serve as biomarkers. Although the term biomarker is relatively new, biomarkers have been used in pre-clinical research and clinical diagnosis for a considerable time. For example, body temperature is a well-known biomarker for fever. Blood pressure is used to determine the risk of stroke. It is also widely known that cholesterol values are a biomarker and risk indicator for coronary and vascular disease, and that C-reactive protein (CRP) is a marker for inflammation.

Biomarkers are useful in a number of ways, including measuring the progress of disease, evaluating the most effective therapeutic regimes for a particular cancer type, and establishing long-term susceptibility to cancer or its recurrence. The parameter can be chemical, physical or biological. In molecular terms biomarker is "the subset of markers that might be discovered using genomics, proteomics technologies or imaging technologies. Biomarkers play major roles in medicinal biology. Biomarkers help in early diagnosis, disease prevention, drug target identification, drug response etc. Several biomarkers have been identified for many diseases such as serum LDL for cholesterol, blood pressure, and P53 gene and MMPs as tumor markers for cancer.