Laboratory markers in ulcerative colitis: Current insights and future advances

Cioffi M1, Rosa AD1, Serao R1, Picone I1, Vietri MT1. World J Gastrointest Pathophysiol. 2015 Feb 15;6(1):13-22. doi: 10.4291/wjgp.v6.i1.13.
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1Michele Cioffi, Antonella De Rosa, Rosalba Serao, Ilaria Picone, Maria Teresa Vietri, Department of Biochemistry, Biophysics and General Pathology, Second Medical School Naples, 80138 Naples, Italy.


Ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn's disease (CD) are the major forms of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) in man. Despite some common features, these forms can be distinguished by different genetic predisposition, risk factors and clinical, endoscopic and histological characteristics. The aetiology of both CD and UC remains unknown, but several evidences suggest that CD and perhaps UC are due to an excessive immune response directed against normal constituents of the intestinal bacterial flora. Tests sometimes invasive are routine for the diagnosis and care of patients with IBD. Diagnosis of UC is based on clinical symptoms combined with radiological and endoscopic investigations. The employment of non-invasive biomarkers is needed. These biomarkers have the potential to avoid invasive diagnostic tests that may result in discomfort and potential complications. The ability to determine the type, severity, prognosis and response to therapy of UC, using biomarkers has long been a goal of clinical researchers. We describe the biomarkers assessed in UC, with special reference to acute-phase proteins and serologic markers and thereafter, we describe the new biological markers and the biological markers could be developed in the future: (1) serum markers of acute phase response: The laboratory tests most used to measure the acute-phase proteins in clinical practice are the serum concentration of C-reactive protein and the erythrocyte sedimentation rate. Other biomarkers of inflammation in UC include platelet count, leukocyte count, and serum albumin and serum orosomucoid concentrations; (2) serologic markers/antibodies: In the last decades serological and immunologic biomarkers have been studied extensively in immunology and have been used in clinical practice to detect specific pathologies. In UC, the presence of these antibodies can aid as surrogate markers for the aberrant host immune response; and (3) future biomarkers: The development of biomarkers in UC will be very important in the future. The progress of molecular biology tools (microarrays, proteomics and nanotechnology) have revolutionised the field of the biomarker discovery. The advances in bioinformatics coupled with cross-disciplinary collaborations have greatly enhanced our ability to retrieve, characterize and analyse large amounts of data generated by the technological advances. The techniques available for biomarkers development are genomics (single nucleotide polymorphism genotyping, pharmacogenetics and gene expression analyses) and proteomics. In the future, the addition of new serological markers will add significant benefit. Correlating serologic markers with genotypes and clinical phenotypes should enhance our understanding of pathophysiology of UC.

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