Getting insight into the body: it’s all about the blood

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Blood tells us lots of things. From cardiovascular health to cholesterol to inflammation to vitamin D levels – there is no shortage of information. Historically, blood was used to determine physiological and biochemical states, such as disease and organ function – but now, there are new technologies being developed to run the next generation of diagnostics on blood.

Liquid biopsy is a new, minimally invasive technology for detecting circulating biomarkers without the need for costly or invasive procedures. Liquid biopsy enables users to sensitively, specifically and rapidly analyze circulating free nucleic acids (cfDNA), circulating tumor cells (CTCs) or exosomes from a blood sample. In short, liquid biopsy can help discover valuable biomarkers in blood samples.

Scientists and researchers are just now starting to effectively use information from the human genome to diagnose diseases. Liquid biopsies are enabling a new revolution, arming the greater medical research community with expertise to achieve groundbreaking discoveries. Liquid biopsy works by sequencing the nucleic acids in a few drops of a person’s blood; these are circulating freely, carried by exosomes, or are part of CTCs.

Liquid biopsies amplify genetic information that is transmitted throughout the bloodstream by exosomes. For example, in cardiovascular health, exosomes impact this area specifically by causing changes in RNA and protein expression. In cancer biomarker discovery, scientists study the circulating NA and CTC which could have metastatic effects, spreading cancer from one location to another. Exosomes also play a role in infection; because they bring information from their host cell, if the host cell is virally infected, the virus is subsequently transported throughout the body. As liquid biopsies allow for more rapid analysis of the sample compared to tissue samples, this type of biopsy enables immediate results and tracking.

With evidence building that monitoring a tumor’s mutational landscape can be done by evaluating circulating tumor DNA or circulating tumor cells, the market for liquid biopsy is vast. The use of liquid biopsies is a game-changer as it’s a noninvasive way to monitor the progression of conditions, by analyzing the ctDNA, RNA and DNA. The potential of liquid biopsy to reveal diagnostic biomarkers is creating a flurry of focus and excitement within the scientific community, and will only continue as developments are made.

Abhishek Sharma, Msc., MBA

Senior Global Market Manager, Discovery Sciences

Abhishek Sharma trained as a biochemist and has hands-on experience in nucleic acid and protein purification, tissue culturing and recombinant DNA technology. Previously, he was as a market analyst on emerging technologies in life science research. Sharma also worked in a USA-based healthcare consultancy on the discovery, development and commercialization of new disease treatments across multiple therapeutic areas. Currently, he’s involved with managing QIAGEN’s sample preparation portfolio, specializing in RNA technologies.

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