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Techniques & Tools Mass Spectrometry, Clinical, Proteomics

Deadly Burn Biomarkers

Despite the high incidence of severe burns, the subsequent processes are complex and not fully understood. “Burns are known to cause severe circulatory, immune, metabolic, and coagulation system dysregulation. For example, right after an injury, there is an immediate increase in capillary permeability, which is one of the main factors leading to circulatory failure. However, the details behind many of these mechanisms are still unclear,” said Shinya Onishi (1), lead author of a study from Osaka University that sheds new light on the subject (2).

By applying an MS-based proteomics approach to the plasma of 10 healthy volunteers and 83 burn patients – 15 of which died within a 28-day period – the team was able to identify 10 proteins that were linked to mortality after statistical analysis. Three of those proteins (HBA1, TTR, and SERPINF2) showed the highest association with mortality and were then used by the researchers to classify patients into three clinical phenotypes.

HBA1 is a hemoglobin subunit that is associated with hemolysis, TTR is an indicator of the breakdown of proteins in the body, and SERPINF2 is associated with the development and dissolution of blood clots. The group with the highest mortality had higher levels of HBA1 and lower levels of TTR and SERPINF2 compared with other groups. 

“These three proteins can function as important prognostic biomarkers for burn patients,” said Onishi. But the authors also highlighted the possibility of exploring the mortality-linked proteins for therapeutic development. Indeed, Jun Oda, another senior author on the study, noted that, in addition to better understanding the pathogenesis of life-threatening burns, a clear goal of the work is to explore “novel molecular pathways in burn victims that might be the targets of future drugs.”

Credit: Bandaged hand by Guitarfoto from, adapted In House

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  1. ResOU (2023). Available at
  2. S Onishi et al., iScience, 26, (2023). DOI: 10.1016/j.isci.2023.107271
About the Author
Markella Loi

Associate Editor, The Analytical Scientist

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