Many studies have been carried out for early diagnosis of complex diseases by finding accurate and robust biomarkers specific to respective diseases. In particular, recent rapid advance of high-throughput technologies provides unprecedented rich information to characterize various disease genotypes and phenotypes in a global and also dynamical manner, which significantly accelerates the study of biomarkers from both theoretical and clinical perspectives. Traditionally, molecular biomarkers that distinguish disease samples from normal samples are widely adopted in clinical practices due to their ease of data measurement. However, many of them suffer from low coverage and high false-positive rates or high false-negative rates, which seriously limit their further clinical applications. To overcome those difficulties, network biomarkers (or module biomarkers) attract much attention and also achieve better performance because a network (or subnetwork) is considered to be a more robust form to characterize diseases than individual molecules. But, both molecular biomarkers and network biomarkers mainly distinguish disease samples from normal samples, and they generally cannot ensure to identify predisease samples due to their static nature, thereby lacking ability to early diagnosis. Based on nonlinear dynamical theory and complex network theory, a new concept of dynamical network biomarkers (DNBs, or a dynamical network of biomarkers) has been developed, which is different from traditional static approaches, and the DNB is able to distinguish a predisease state from normal and disease states by even a small number of samples, and therefore has great potential to achieve "real" early diagnosis of complex diseases. In this paper, we comprehensively review the recent advances and developments on molecular biomarkers, network biomarkers, and DNBs in particular, focusing on the biomarkers for early diagnosis of complex diseases considering a small number of samples and high-throughput data (or big data). Detailed comparisons of various types of biomarkers as well as their applications are also discussed.
Keywords: complex diseases; dynamical network biomarker; early diagnosis; molecular biomarker; network biomarker.
© 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.