Biomarkers are distinct biological indicators (cellular, biochemical or molecular) of a process, event or condition that can be measured reliably in tissues, cells or fluids, and can be used to detect early changes in a patient’s health. Some examples of biomarkers include blood cholesterol, a well-known biomarker of risk for coronary heart disease, and PSA, which is associated with prostate cancer.
The PROOF Centre is taking a ‘non-targeted’ approach to discovering novel biomarkers. Instead of focusing on known biomarkers, we are using technological platforms and tiered computation strategies to discover combinations of genes, proteins and metabolites that are unknown and/or not previously associated with illness and organ failure. In addition, we bring together, two “compartments” – the expression of genes in whole blood (primarily white blood cells) and expression of proteins in the plasma. We believe in this combined approach because of the complexity of the human body.
We’re looking for differentially expressed biomarkers. Healthy people express different types and/or quantities of genes, proteins and metabolites than people who are ill. PROOF is identifying biomarkers that are expressed differently between different groups of patients; between healthy people and those with organ failure, and between organ failure patients who are experiencing different outcomes. We’re doing this by identifying and comparing the biomarker profiles between different patient cohorts – groups of patients with similar clinical symptoms or outcomes. By using this approach we hope to identify specific biomarkers that can be used to distinguish a patient with one type of illness from another and to predict their outcomes, even before disease symptoms appear.