The origin of some laboratory medicine milestones
Although the real contribution of laboratory diagnostics to the managed care remains largely debated, it is now unquestionable that both the development and introduction into clinical practice of many laboratory tests have virtually revolutionized clinical practice. This article is hence aimed at presenting and discussing the original discovery of some laboratory analyses which have profoundly revolutionized science and medicine, and that are now largely used in daily practice for managing many million patients worldwide without that some of us would probably know how, when and why this has initially occurred. These tests, which are just arbitrarily selected but probably paradigmatic examples, include cardiac troponins, procalcitonin, glycated hemoglobin, prothrombin time and carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA). What can be learnt from the historical overview of these cases is that although a strict relationship can be not always found between the outcome of the discovery process and the original intention that drove it forward, scientists must always critically analyze their findings, reflecting on the potential significance, establishing a link with previous knowledge and finally driving their (occasionally serendipitous) discovery into maximized benefits for science and medicine. It is virtually undeniable that studying the history of laboratory medicine is essential, since it will help understanding our past, and will serve as a guide for the present and for the future.