Proteins in our blood could in future help provide a comprehensive ‘liquid health check’, assessing our health and predicting the likelihood that we will we will develop a range of diseases, according to research published today in Nature Medicine.
Preventative medicine programmes such as the UK National Health Service’s Health Check and Healthier You programmes are aimed at improving our health and reducing our risk of developing diseases. While such strategies are inexpensive, cost effective and scalable, they could be made more effective using personalised information about an individual’s health and disease risk.
The rise and application of ‘big data’ in healthcare, assessing and analysing detailed, large-scale datasets makes it increasingly feasible to make predictions about health and disease outcomes and enable stratified approaches to prevention and clinical management.
Now, an international team of researchers from the UK and USA, working with biotech company SomaLogic, has shown that large-scale measurement of proteins in a single blood test can provide important information about our health and can help to predict a range of different diseases and risk factors.
Our bodies contain around 30,000 different proteins, which are coded for by our DNA and regulate biological processes. Some of these proteins enter the blood stream by purposeful secretion to orchestrate biological processes in health or in disease, for example hormones, cytokines and growth factors. Others enter the blood through leakage from cell damage and cell death. Both secreted and leaked proteins can inform health status and disease risk.
In a proof-of-concept study based on five observational cohorts in almost 17,000 participants, researchers scanned 5,000 proteins in a plasma sample taken from each participant. Plasma is the single largest component of blood and is the clear liquid that remains after the removal of red and white blood cells and platelets. The study resulted in around 85 million protein targets being measured.
The technique involves using fragments of DNA known as aptamers that bind to the target protein. In general, only specific fragments will bind to particular proteins – in the same way that only a specific key will fit in a particular lock. Using existing genetic sequencing technology, the researchers can then search for the aptamers and determine which proteins are present and in what concentrations.
The researchers analysed the results using statistical methods and machine learning techniques to develop predictive models – for example, that an individual whose blood contains a certain pattern of proteins is at increased risk of developing diabetes. The models covered a number of health states, including levels of liver fat, kidney function and visceral fat, alcohol consumption, physical activity and smoking behaviour, and for risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
The accuracy of the models varied, with some showing high predictive powers, such as for percentage body fat, while others had only modest prognostic power, such as for cardiovascular risk. The researchers report that their protein-based models were all either better predictors than models based on traditional risk factors or would constitute more convenient and less expensive alternatives to traditional testing.
Many of the proteins are linked to a number of health states or conditions; for example, leptin, which modulates appetite and metabolism, was informative for predictive models of percentage body fat, visceral fat, physical activity and fitness.
One difference between genome sequencing and so-called ‘proteomics’ – studying an individual’s proteins in depth – is that whereas the genome is fixed, the proteome changes over time. It might change as an individual becomes more obese, less physically active or smokes, for example, so proteins will be able to track changes in an individual’s health status over a lifetime.
Proteins circulating in our blood are a manifestation of our genetic make-up as well as many other factors, such as behaviours or the presence of disease, even if not yet diagnosed,” said “This is one of the reasons why proteins are such good indicators of our current and future health state and have the potential to improve clinical prediction across different and diverse diseases.”
Dr Stephen Williams, Chief Medical Officer of SomaLogic, who led the study, said:
It’s remarkable that plasma protein patterns alone can faithfully represent such a wide variety of common and important health issues, and we think that this is just the tip of the iceberg. We have more than a hundred tests in our SomaSignal pipeline and believe that large-scale protein scanning has the potential to become a sole information source for individualised health assessments.”
While this study shows a proof-of-principle, the researchers say that as technology improves and becomes more affordable, it is feasible that a comprehensive health evaluation using a battery of protein models derived from a single blood sample could be offered as routine by health services.
Peter Ganz, MD, co-leader of this study and the Maurice Eliaser Distinguished Professor of Medicine at the UCSF and Director of the Center of Excellence in Vascular Research at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center, said:
“This proof of concept study demonstrates a new paradigm that measurement of blood proteins can accurately deliver health information that spans across numerous medical specialties and that should be actionable for patients and their healthcare providers. I expect that in the future we will look back at this Nature Medicine proteomic study as a critical milestone in personalising and thus improving the care of our patients.”
Go deeper with Bing News on:
Liquid health check
- No, Video Is Not Of Liquid Oxygen Being Transported From Saudi Arabia To Indiaon May 3, 2021 at 3:58 am
A video of seven Empty oxygen tankers being transported from Maharashtra to Vishakhapatnam through train is being shared with a claim of oxygen sent from Saudi Arabia. The Logical Indian ...
- TikTokers are drinking liquid chlorophyll. Experts debunk this wellness craze.on April 29, 2021 at 4:00 am
There is little evidence that drinking liquid chlorophyll has benefits, and it has some possible downsides, say experts, who recommend leafy greens instead.
- Health benefits of hydrogen peroxideon April 21, 2021 at 11:18 am
You may remember the sting of hydrogen peroxide on a scraped knee as a kid, but did you know it has household uses and health benefits, too? Read on.
- Wearing makeup again? Check the dateon April 20, 2021 at 6:07 am
As more people get vaccinated and offices reopen, you may want to check your makeup inventory before you start using it again — it expires. "Expiration dates are really important to keep in mind when ...
- Fact check: Best method for tick removal is tweezers, not liquid soap and cotton ballon April 19, 2021 at 6:59 am
There's no evidence to back claims that liquid soap is an effective way to remove ticks. Experts recommend using tweezers instead.
Go deeper with Google Headlines on:
Liquid health check
Go deeper with Bing News on:
- Innovative Market Access, Value and Data Insights Manageron May 3, 2021 at 3:49 am
You will be offered a full-time permanent role of an Innovative Market Access, Data insights & Pricing Solutions Manager. Major accountabilities: - Co-develop and execute Market Access, Pricing & ...
- Biomarker Technologies Market Value Predicted To Reach US$ 129.5 Billion By 2027 – Covering Pre and Post COVID-19 Market Analysison May 3, 2021 at 2:57 am
Acumen Research and Consulting, a global provider of market research studies, in a recently published report titled “Biomarker Technologies Market– Global ...
- 12 Month ‘AI4Life’ Residency Program – Causal & Predictive Analyticson May 2, 2021 at 4:23 pm
Are you passionate about data science & AI and motivated to operate in an ‘unbossed’ culture? Are you inspired about discovering breakthrough life-changing medicine and having a positive impact on the ...
- Francesco Ravera, MD, PhD, on Results of cfDNA Versus MRI to Predict pCR After Neoadjuvant Therapy in Breast Canceron May 1, 2021 at 11:07 am
CancerNetwork® spoke with Francesco Ravera, MD, PhD, during the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 2021 to discuss results of a study aimed at determining pathological complete ...
- Doctors Urge National Organ Donation Registration Processon April 29, 2021 at 12:17 pm
WASHINGTON—The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine—a national nonprofit with more than 12,000 doctor members—is asking the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to standardize ...