Jan. 22, 2008 The variation in human platelets in the elderly population is not significantly large, report researchers in a study that has strong implications for clinical biomarker research.
The onset or progression of diseases like cancer is accompanied by changes in the expression of specific proteins. These proteins could be used as biomarkers to diagnose patients early or track therapy progression. However, identifying clinical biomarkers requires knowing the extent of natural protein variation in the population, which arises from a combination of factors like age, gender, and genetic background.
Rudolf Oehler and colleagues examined the platelet protein variation in 20 individuals aged 56-100, an age group at higher for many diseases. Interestingly, while their analysis had a 7% variation from technical accuracy, the total variation was only 18%, although a few proteins did show dramatic differences.
Since the variation of protein expression in normal platelets is fairly low, any changes in protein expression associated with disease will likely also be small (i.e. a low expression range in a healthy population means you don't need big changes to perturb the system).
Platelets play a key role in maintaining the health of our blood and since they're easy to extract they may be a valuable source for protein biomarkers. Due to the naturally low variation, though, Oehler and colleagues note that finding these biomarkers requires highly sensitive and accurate equipment.
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