Studying multiple protein profiles over time to assess biomarker validity

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Protein profile analysis is increasingly used for identification of disease biomarkers. The approaches vary from surface-enhanced laser desorption/ionization to protein arrays. Newer platforms are constantly being developed. Almost all are based on matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry and are often coupled with sophisticated software tools. Protein profiling has been applied to a variety of samples including plasma, urine, cerebrospinal fluid, saliva and solid tissue. This article focuses on those instances where it is possible to obtain sequential samples from the same individual. In the authors use of a profile method, many protein changes with highly significant correlations to disease have been found. The main challenge lies in the validation of the marker to demonstrate its adequacy for use in the clinical setting. The latter requires a methodology that is robust and amenable to high-throughput. One problem is that interindividual variability among the healthy population can mask major changes that occur on an intraindividual basis. Often, a large change for an individual may remain within the range of healthy individuals. Thus, one strategy to optimize biomarker discovery is to examine serial samples from a given individual, where a disease biomarker is established by comparison with the individual's own baseline sample. The focus of this review is to illustrate the principle and value of serial protein profiling using a rapid protein extraction method.

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