EU Science Hub

Behind the scenes: a deeper look into standardisation in health diagnostics

Mar 01 2013

The Institute for Reference Materials and Measurements of the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC-IRMM) is a leading reference material developer in the area of clinical chemistry and laboratory medicine.

Reference Materials are an important quality assurance tool to ensure that clinical testing results are reliable and therefore diagnostic findings are correct and comparable. Standardisation in the clinical field benefits citizens' health and potential subsequent treatment and brings efficiency in the health care systems.

The IRMM provides a large number of certified reference materials supporting harmonisation and standardisation. One important area in the field of clinical diagnostics is the analysis of markers that are fundamental for the diagnostics for many autoimmune diseases (AID) such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus or systemic sclerosis. There is growing evidence that an early diagnosis with a prompt and right treatment increases the probability of successfully combatting the majority of AID. Furthermore, treating the disease in the early phases can reduce the risk of irreversible tissue damage and improve the overall prognosis. Therefore the reliable detection and quantification of autoantibodies is essential for patient diagnosis and monitoring.

This is why today, 1 March 2013, the JRC-IRMM, in collaboration with the International Federation for Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine (IFCC) Working Group for the Harmonisation of Autoimmune testing, will meet in Brussels with industry developers and clinical chemists and doctors.  The JRC-IRMM will present the outcome of a feasibility study for a first reference material to be produced to standardise autoimmune disease testing.  Half-way of a long process but certainly moving in the right direction, this reference material still has to be characterized and will probably be available in the next years to come. It's important to stress that the production and certification of many materials for the clinical field is not trivial and requires time and efforts from the experts in this field. 

Therefore, next time you are going to a clinical or doctor's laboratory to have a control blood test, you might think about all the work behind the scenes.