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What a Drop Can Do: Dried Blood Spots as a Minimally-Invasive Method for Integrating Biomarkers into Population-Based Research (WP-06-16)

Thomas W. McDade, Sharon Williams, and J. Josh Snodgrass

Logistical constraints associated with the collection and analysis of biological samples in community-based settings have been a significant impediment to integrative, multilevel biodemographic and biobehavioral research. However, recent methodological developments overcome many of these constraints and have expanded the options for incorporating biomarkers into population-based health research. In particular, dried blood spots—drops of whole blood collected on filter paper from a simple prick of the finger—provide a minimally-invasive method for collecting blood samples in nonclinical settings.

After a brief, general discussion of biomarkers, the authors review procedures for collecting, handling, and analyzing dried blood-spot samples. The advantages of dried blood spots—compared to venipuncture—include the relative ease and low cost of sample collection, transport, and storage. The disadvantages include requirements for assay development and validation and the relatively small volumes of sample.

The authors present the results of a comprehensive literature review that identified over 100 analytes with existing protocols for analysis in dried blood-spot samples. They provide more detailed analysis of protocols for 45 analytes likely to be of particular relevance to population-level health research. Their objective is to provide investigators with the information they need to make informed decisions regarding the appropriateness of blood-spot methods for their research interests.

Thomas W. McDade, Department of Anthropology, Northwestern University

Sharon Williams, Department of Anthropology, Northwestern University

J. Josh Snodgrass, Department of Anthropology, University of Oregon

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