Sat May 22 2021

What are Biomarkers for General Health?

A biomarker is any biological indicator that can be measured to assess the general health of a person. A biomarker could be a hormone, a gene, a molecule, or a cellular component. Different biomarkers are used for varying purposes. While some biomarkers can predict the risk of development of certain diseases, others can help diagnose specific medical conditions. Testing for a biomarker involves checking for alterations in the concentration of a biomarker and can be conveniently performed via blood, body fluids, or tissue samples.

General Health Biomarkers

The biomarkers of general health have various functions. They can be used for risk evaluation of certain conditions such as heart diseases, diabetes, metabolic disorders, etc. Biomarkers of general health also include disease-specific biomarkers that can help to screen and diagnose specific health conditions, such as different types of cancer. Disease-specific biomarkers are also used to monitor treatment progression of cancerous conditions1.

Important biomarkers of general health include the following1:

a) Lipid Metabolism

  • HDL-Cholesterol
  • LDL-Cholesterol
  • Cholesterol
  • Triglycerides

b) Cardiac Markers

  • Brain Natriuretic Peptide (BNP)
  • C-Reactive Protein (CRP)
  • Lactic Acid Dehydrogenase (LDH)
  • Troponin 1
  • Soluble urokinase plasminogen activator receptor (suPAR)

c) Diabetes

  • C-Peptide
  • Glucose
  • Glucagon
  • Insulin

d) Oncology

  • Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA)
  • Fibroblast Growth Factor (FGFb)
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF)

e) Acute inflammatory markers

  • C-reactive protein (CRP)
  • Interleukon-6 (IL-6)
  • Interleukin-1beta (IL-1beta)
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF)

f) Chronic inflammation

  • Soluble urokinase plasminogen activator receptor (suPAR)

The biomarkers of general health have various functions. They can be used for risk evaluation of certain conditions such as heart diseases, diabetes, metabolic disorders, etc.

Biomarkers of Ageing

Aging is a time-dependent physiologic function of the body. During the aging process several molecular pathways in the body alter, along with the normal wear and tear of tissue and muscle. Also, with age a person becomes more susceptible to various non-communicable diseases. Current research indicates that biomarkers of aging could facilitate the differentiation of people who are of the same chronological age but have different aging rates. Moreover, these biomarkers can also assist researchers understand better aging-related diseases. The American Federation for Aging Research (AFAR) recommends the following criteria for a biomarker of aging2:

  • The biomarker must predict the rate of aging
  • The biomarker must monitor the basic process that underlies the aging process, not the effects of a disease.
  • The biomarker can be tested repeatedly without harming the person.
  • The biomarker should be suitable for humans and could be also utilized in laboratory animals for research purpose

At present, a few suggested biomarkers of aging include the following2:

  • DNA repair
  • Telomeres (components of chromosomes)
  • Epigenetic modifications
  • Cell senescence
  • Metabolic markers such as lipid metabolism, protein metabolism, and nutrient sensing.
  • Markers of acute (CPR and IL-6) and chronic inflammation (suPAR)

Lifestyle-Related Biomarkers

Lifestyle-related biomarkers refer to biomarkers that are affected by a person’s lifestyle choices. Changes in the levels of these biomarkers in the body can predict the risk of development of certain health conditions. Most commonly, lifestyle-related biomarkers are used for risk evaluation of cardiovascular (heart) diseases (CVD)3  or disease in general4.

The main lifestyle factors that can impact biomarker levels in the body include the following3:

  • Unhealthy diet (high saturated fats, high sugar content)
  • Smoking
  • Excess alcohol intake
  • Sedentary lifestyle

An unhealthy lifestyle (e.g. smoking, unhealthy diets, lack of exercise) results in increased chronic inflammation. However, lifestyle changes results in lowering of chronic inflammation and lowering in risk of incident disease and premature mortality4.

1. Mayeux R. Biomarkers: Potential Uses and Limitations. NeuroRx. 2004 Apr; 1(2): 182–188.
2. Xia X, Chen W, McDermott J, Han JJ. Molecular and phenotypic biomarkers of aging. F1000Res. 2017;6: 860. Published 2017 Jun 9. doi:10.12688/f1000research.10692.1
3. Yu E and Manson JE. Diet, lifestyle, biomarkers, genetic factors, and risk of cardiovascular disease in the nurses’ health studies. Am J Public Health. 2016 September; 106(9): 1616–1623.
4. Eugen-Olsen J et al, Circulating soluble urokinase plasminogen activator receptor predicts cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and mortality in the general population. J Intern Med. 2010 Sep;268(3):296-308.
5. Haupt TH et al, Healthy lifestyles reduce suPAR and mortality in a Danish general population study. Immun Ageing. 2019 Jan 22;16:1.

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