A new report published online in the American Heart Association journal Circulation describes the successful measurement of changes in blood proteins at a previously unattainable scale. The results revealed a large number of proteins that increased significantly soon after a heart attack—some that are well-known markers of myocardial damage but many that are completely new. This proof-of-principle study demonstrates that comprehensive protein profiling to diagnose and treat human health and disease is on the horizon.
The types and levels of many proteins that circulate through the body are constantly changing in response to changes in real-time health status. Until recently, this gold mine of information has remained largely untapped because conventional technologies can’t measure thousands of proteins present in vastly different concentrations in complex mixtures such as blood.
In this study, researchers at the Novartis Institute for BioMedical Research, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Brigham and Women’s Hospital used the SOMAscan platform to measure the levels of ~5,000 proteins in blood samples taken from patients undergoing a “planned” heart attack, a medical procedure that can help reduce severely overgrown heart muscle (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy). They analyzed plasma taken before and at different time points after the procedure, looking for proteins whose levels changed significantly. Their results not only confirmed findings from an earlier study that used an earlier, smaller version of the SOMAscan platform (ref: Ngo, D et al. (2016) “Aptamer-Based Proteomic Profiling Reveals Novel Candidate Biomarkers and Pathways in Cardiovascular Disease.” Circulation 134(4): 270-285.), but also identified nearly 150 new proteins, many of which had not been previously associated with heart damage. Twenty-nine of the proteins were also elevated in patients who suffered “unplanned” heart attacks.
This article is the first published description of large-scale protein profiling at a level that has not previously been reported. The expanded SOMAscan assay platform provides opportunities for unbiased discovery of disease markers to improve diagnosis, predict future events, monitor responses to therapies and identify targets for drug development. Ongoing studies by these authors are applying this expanded SOMAscan platform to larger groups of patients.