The lack of reliable measures of alcohol intake is a major obstacle to the diagnosis, treatment, and research of alcohol abuse and alcoholism. Successful development of a biomarker that allows for accurate assessment of alcohol intake and drinking patterns would not only be a major advance in clinical care but also a valuable research tool. A number of advances have been made in testing the validity of proposed biomarkers as well as in identifying potential new biomarkers through systems biology approaches. This commentary will examine the definition of a biomarker of heavy drinking, the types of potential biomarkers, the steps in biomarker development, the current state of biomarker development, and critical obstacles for the field. The challenges in developing biomarkers for alcohol treatment and research are similar to those found in other fields. However, the alcohol research field must reach a competitive level of rigor and organization. We recommend that NIAAA consider taking a leadership role in organizing investigators in the field and providing a common set of clinical specimens for biomarker validation studies.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Medicine (miscellaneous)
- Psychiatry and Mental health