Date of Award

Summer 6-13-2022

Document Type

Thesis (Ph.D.)

Department or Program

Quantitative Biomedical Sciences

First Advisor

Scott A. Gerber


The biomarker discovery pipeline is a multi-step endeavor to identify potential diagnostic or prognostic markers of a disease. Although the advent of modern mass spectrometers has revolutionized the initial discovery phase, a significant bottleneck still exists when validating discovered biomarkers. In this doctoral research, I demonstrate that the discovery, verification and validation of biomarkers can all be performed using mass spectrometry and apply the biomarker pipeline to the context of clinical delirium.

First, a systematic review of recent literature provided a birds-eye view of untargeted, discovery proteomic attempts for biomarkers of delirium in the geriatric population. Here, a comprehensive search from five databases yielded 1172 publications, from which eight peer-reviewed studies met our defined inclusion criteria. Despite the paucity of published studies that applied systems- biology approaches for biomarker discovery on the subject, lessons learned and insights from this review was instrumental in the study designing and proteomics analyses of plasma sample in our cohort.

We then performed a targeted study on four biomarkers for their potential mediation role in the occurrence of delirium after high-dose intra-operative oxygen treatment. Although S100B calcium binding protein (S100B), gamma enolase (ENO2), chitinase-3-like protein 1 (CHI3L1) and ubiquitin carboxyl-terminal hydrolase isozyme L1 (UCHL1) have well-documented associations with delirium, we did not find any such associations in our cohort. Of note, this study demonstrates that the use of targeted approaches for the purposes of biomarker discovery, rather than an untargeted, systems-biology approach, is unavoidably biased and may lead to misleading conclusions.

Lastly, we applied lessons learned and comprehensively profiled the plasma samples of delirium cases and non-delirium cases, at both pre- and post-surgical timepoints. We found 16 biomarkers as signatures of cardiopulmonary bypass, and 11 as potential diagnostic candidates of delirium (AuROC = 93%). We validated the discovered biomarkers on the same mass spectrometry platform without the use of traditional affinity-based validation methods. Our discovery of novel biomarkers with no know association with delirium such as serum amyloid A1 (SAA1) and A2 (SAA2), pepsinogen A3 (PEPA3) and cathepsin B (CATB) shed new lights on possible neuronal pathomechanisms.

Original Citation

Wiredu, Kwame, et al. "Intraoperative Plasma Proteomic Changes in Cardiac Surgery: In Search of Biomarkers of Post-operative Delirium." medRxiv (2022).

Wiredu, Kwame, et al. "Proteomics for the discovery of clinical delirium biomarkers: A systematic review of Major Studies." medRxiv (2022).

Wiredu, Kwame, et al. "Perioperative Hyperoxia and Delirium after On-pump Cardiac Surgery: A Mediation Analysis." medRxiv (2022).