Study highlights potential for ‘liquid health check’ to predict disease risk


06-12-2019
  Blood plasma  Credit: Geralt

Proteins in our blood could in future help provide a comprehensive ‘liquid health check’, assessing our health and predicting the likelihood that we will develop a range of diseases, according to research published 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.

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Image: Blood plasma

Credit: Geralt

Reproduced courtesy of the University of Cambridge

 

The University of Cambridge is acknowledged as one of the world's leading higher education and research institutions. The University was instrumental in the formation of the Cambridge Network and its Vice- Chancellor, Professor Stephen Toope, is also the President of the Cambridge Network.

University of Cambridge (cam.ac.uk)