Incorporating Biomarkers in Population Research

A few drops of blood, a small amount of saliva, a few strands of hair -- these ordinary human substances can carry a wealth of information for social science and public health researchers. Samples such as these can be used to deduce someone's risk for cardiovascular disease, the amount of stress they experience, whether they have a nutrient deficiency, or their exposure to heavy metals. There is a steadily growing roster of biomarkers that can be used in population-based research and what they reveal. This is aided by technological advances permitting the use of sophisticated and accessible means to decipher characteristics in blood, urine, hair, skin, toenails, saliva, and other human specimens.

The linkage of biological assessments with social and behavioral data provides a richer understanding of the interaction of biological and behavioral issues. Long used in health and drug research, biomedical specimens or biomarkers provide a window into quantifiable aspects of the human body.



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