Biomarkers for Acute Respiratory Distress syndrome and prospects for personalised medicine

Savino Spadaro, Mirae Park, Cecilia Turrini, Tanushree Tunstall, Ryan Thwaites, Tommaso Mauri, Riccardo Ragazzi, Paolo Ruggeri, Trevor T. Hansel, Gaetano Caramori, Carlo Alberto Volta

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Acute lung injury (ALI) affects over 10% of patients hospitalised in critical care, with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) being the most severe form of ALI and having a mortality rate in the region of 40%. There has been slow but incremental progress in identification of biomarkers that contribute to the pathophysiology of ARDS, have utility in diagnosis and monitoring, and that are potential therapeutic targets (Calfee CS, Delucchi K, Parsons PE, Thompson BT, Ware LB, Matthay MA, Thompson T, Ware LB, Matthay MA, Lancet Respir Med 2014, 2:611 - 620). However, a major issue is that ARDS is such a heterogeneous, multi-factorial, end-stage condition that the strategies for "lumping and splitting" are critical (Prescott HC, Calfee CS, Thompson BT, Angus DC, Liu VX, Am J Respir Crit Care Med 2016, 194:147 - 155). Nevertheless, sequencing of the human genome, the availability of improved methods for analysis of transcription to mRNA (gene expression), and development of sensitive immunoassays has allowed the application of network biology to ARDS, with these biomarkers offering potential for personalised or precision medicine (Sweeney TE, Khatri P, Toward precision medicine Crit Care Med; 2017 45:934-939). Biomarker panels have potential applications in molecular phenotyping for identifying patients at risk of developing ARDS, diagnosis of ARDS, risk stratification and monitoring. Two subphenotypes of ARDS have been identified on the basis of blood biomarkers: hypo-inflammatory and hyper-inflammatory. The hyper-inflammatory subphenotype is associated with shock, metabolic acidosis and worst clinical outcomes. Biomarkers of particular interest have included interleukins (IL-6 and IL-8), interferon gamma (IFN-γ), surfactant proteins (SPD and SPB), von Willebrand factor antigen, angiopoietin 1/2 and plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 (PAI-1). In terms of gene expression (mRNA) in blood there have been found to be increases in neutrophil-related genes in sepsis-induced and influenza-induced ARDS, but whole blood expression does not give a robust diagnostic test for ARDS. Despite improvements in management of ARDS on the critical care unit, this complex disease continues to be a major life-threatening event. Clinical trials of β 2 -agonists, statins, surfactants and keratinocyte growth factor (KGF) have been disappointing. In addition, monoclonal antibodies (anti-TNF) and TNFR fusion protein have also been unconvincing. However, there have been major advances in methods of mechanical ventilation, a neuromuscular blocker (cisatracurium besilate) has shown some benefit, and stem cell therapy is being developed. In the future, by understanding the role of biomarkers in the pathophysiology of ARDS and lung injury, it is hoped that this will provide rational therapeutic targets and ultimately improve clinical care (Seymour CW, Gomez H, Chang CH, Clermont G, Kellum JA, Kennedy J, Yende S, Angus DC, Crit Care 2017, 21:257).

Original languageEnglish
Article number1
JournalJournal of Inflammation (United Kingdom)
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 15 2019


  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome
  • Biomarkers
  • Inflammatory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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