Applications of Biomarkers Beyond Healthcare

There are several potential applications of biomarkers beyond drug development and human healthcare. Proteomic biomarkers have been used in stem cell research. Applications of biomarkers of infections can be extended to detection of biological agents used in bioterrorism and monitoring human exposure to environmental toxins.

Combating Bioterrorism

An integrated rapid, semiportable, prototype point microbial detection/identification system was proposed for clinical specimens, which is also capable of differentiating microbial bioterrorism attacks from threats or hoaxes by defining the pathogen (White et al. 2002). The system utilizes “flash” extraction/analytical system capable of detec- tion/identification of microbes from environmental and clinical matrices. The system couples demonstrated technologies to provide quantitative analysis of lipid biomarkers of microbes including spores in a system with near-single cell (amol/microl) sensitivity. Tandem mass spectrometry increases specificity by providing the molecular structure of neutral lipids, phospholipids, and derivatized spore-specific bacterial biomarker, 2,6-dipicolinic acid as well as the lipopolysaccharide-amide-linked hydroxy- fatty acids of gram-negative bacteria. The extraction should take about an hour for each sample but multiple samples can be processed simultaneously. MALDI-TOF MS specific biomarkers have been shown to be an effective tool for identifying microorganisms. This technique can detect the obligate intracellular bacterium Coxiella burnetii, a category B bioterrorism agent.

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