Validation of biomarkers
There is an urgent need for established markers that reflect and predict gastrointestinal (GI) health. GI health is best defined as the absence of both disease and GI discomfort, and the organism’s ability to return to homeostasis after a challenge, such as heavy exercise or a mild microbial infection.
The project aimed to define signatures of a healthy gut. We tested the validity of a set of existing single biomarkers, and tried to establish if new techniques such as metabolomics in exhaled breath, genomics and microbiomics can be used to identify signatures of biomarkers for a healthy gut. The focus was on easily-accessible biomarkers that can be monitored using a limited number of biological sample types such as stool, blood and exhaled breath, obtained from (prospective) cohorts of healthy subjects and from patients with functional GI disorders.
Extensive datasets were collected covering more than 18,000 individuals from leading Dutch cohorts. We built our own sub-cohort, LifeLines-deep (LLDeep), which has 1,500 participants and supplied extra data for use in the project, but also data from 500 participants in the Maastricht-IBS (M-IBS) cohort were used.
At the end of the project the focus shifted to analysing the collected material, and to correlating the relations between the existing single biomarkers, genetic backgrounds, exhaled breath and microbiome. A relationship between all of these markers and GI health and intestinal integrity was established.