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mRNA transcripts as molecular biomarkers in medicine and nutrition.

In medicine, mRNA transcripts are being developed as molecular biomarkers for the diagnosis and treatment of a number of diseases. These biomarkers offer early and more accurate prediction and diagnosis of disease and disease progression, and ability to identify individuals at risk. Use of microarrays also offers opportunity to identify orthogonal (uncorrelated) biomarkers not known to be linked with conventional biomarkers. Investigators are increasingly using blood as a surrogate tissue for biopsy and analysis; total RNA isolated from whole blood is predominantly from erythroid cells, and whole blood mRNA shares more than 80% of the transcriptome with major tissues. Thus blood mRNA biomarkers for individualized disease prediction and diagnosis are an exciting area in medicine; mRNA biomarkers in nutrition have potential application that parallels these opportunities. Assessment of selenium (Se) status and requirements is one area where tissue mRNA levels have been used successfully. Selenoprotein-H and selenoprotein-W as well as glutathione peroxidase-1 (Gpx1) mRNAs are highly down-regulated in Se deficiency in rat liver, and the minimum dietary Se requirement is 0.06-0.07 microg Se/g based on these biomarkers, similar to requirements determined using conventional biomarkers. Blood Gpx1 mRNA can also be used to determine Se requirements in rats, showing that blood mRNA has potential for assessment of nutrient status. Future research is needed to develop mRNA biomarker panels for all nutrients that will discriminate between deficient, marginal, adequate and supernutritional individuals and populations, and differentiate between individuals who will benefit vs. be adversely affected by nutrient supplementation.[1]

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