Crowdsourcing Disease Biomarker Discovery Research: The IP4IC Study

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Biomarker discovery is limited by readily assessable, cost efficient human samples available in large numbers that represent the entire heterogeneity of the disease. We developed a novel, active participation crowdsourcing method to determine BP-RS (Bladder Permeability Defect Risk Score). It is based on noninvasive urinary cytokines to discriminate patients with interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome who had Hunner lesions from controls and patients with interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome but without Hunner lesions.

Materials and Methods:

We performed a national crowdsourcing study in cooperation with the Interstitial Cystitis Association. Patients answered demographic, symptom severity and urinary frequency questionnaires on a HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) compliant website. Urine samples were collected at home, stabilized with a preservative and sent to Beaumont Hospital for analysis. The expression of 3 urinary cytokines was used in a machine learning algorithm to develop BP-RS.


The IP4IC study collected a total of 448 urine samples, representing 153 patients (147 females and 6 males) with interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome, of whom 54 (50 females and 4 males) had Hunner lesions. A total of 159 female and 136 male controls also participated, who were age matched. A defined BP-RS was calculated to predict interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome with Hunner lesions or a bladder permeability defect etiology with 89% validity.


In this novel participation crowdsourcing study we obtained a large number of urine samples from 46 states, which were collected at home, shipped and stored at room temperature. Using a machine learning algorithm we developed BP-RS to quantify the risk of interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome with Hunner lesions, which is indicative of a bladder permeability defect etiology. To our knowledge BP-RS is the first validated urine biomarker assay for interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome and one of the first biomarker assays to be developed using crowdsourcing.

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