I would like to introduce you to you, but not the person you see in the mirror. No, I want to introduce you to “proteo-you,” the version of you made up of proteins. Meeting proteo-you could lead to a healthier you.

It is easy to overlook the fact that we are biologically a lot more than the caloric remnants of lemon curd donuts, bone and sinew, and a couple pounds of bacteria. But proteo-you consists of the building blocks, marvelous communicators and battle-ready warriors for your body – all lumped together under the name “proteins.”

Making their way through the Manhattan-like circulatory subway system of you, thousands of your proteins carry on with their business of making you, “you,” such as relaying messages to other proteins or carrying out specific critical chemical tasks (Lin et al., 2008). In the hustle and bustle of your busy infrastructure, it is also likely that other proteins that originated from microbes, or even from your own dying or damaged cells can be found doing their thing for good or bad. Imagine what we could learn about your body if we could tap into and translate the chatter in your subways.

There is so much information to be had from careful listening. Recently we published the largest protein-focused study of its kind, analyzing blood samples from 17,000 participants — almost 85 million different protein measurements (Williams et al., 2019). From these massive data, we have learned how to extract a range of info from a sample that can reveal a person’s current health status such as having a fatty liver, kidney function, percent body fat, lean body mass, amount of abdominal fat and aerobic fitness. We can even determine how the body responds to alcohol consumption, smoking and physical activity – all from the chatter of proteins. Our findings can also sound alarms about the development of type 2 diabetes or having a heart attack in the next few years.

We are not only listening and translating the protein chatter, but also helping people embrace their proteo-selves to become healthier. For example, we recently started a new study with the Leeds Centre for Personalised Medicine and Health. The aim of the project is to determine if being provided with their protein-based real-time health status will help people at risk of type 2 diabetes make adjustments to their lifestyles to prevent the disease onset and enjoy healthier lives.

And far more than just an academic exercise, we have just begun to offer “proteo-you” tests[1] through select healthcare providers, and expect to continue expanding both the number of tests and number of providers in the foreseeable future.

Why not bypass the doctor and make proteo-you guidance directly available to customers? As Roy Smythe, M.D., our CEO says, we absolutely believe in the democratization of medical information, but want first to vet our technology with doctors and then directly provide people with meaningful relevant information. We don’t want to repeat other companies’ mistakes and bypass the medical community from the outset. We also need to make sure we have all the competencies necessary to deliver directly into a consumer market – things like customer service, and mobile interfaces – that will take us some time to build. And last but not least, we want to get the price of our tests into a range that consumers will find reasonable – that’s achievable in the near term, and we’re working out the science needed to do that now.

As more people become comfortable with their proteo-selves, the realization that proteins are the harbingers of our future health status will become more evident. The final question remaining is, what would the chatter arising from your internal hustle and bustle say about you? Curious? Stay in touch.

 

References

Lin, H., Lee, E., Hestir, K., Leo, C., Huang, M., Bosch, E., . . . Williams, L. T. (2008). Discovery of a cytokine and its receptor by functional screening of the extracellular proteome. Science, 320(5877), 807-811. doi:10.1126/science.1154370

Williams, S. A., Kivimaki, M., Langenberg, C., Hingorani, A. D., Casas, J. P., Bouchard, C., . . . Wareham, N. J. (2019). Plasma protein patterns as comprehensive indicators of health. Nature Medicine. doi:10.1038/s41591-019-0665-2

[1] SomaLogic, Inc. has developed these tests and determined their performance characteristics. The tests have neither been cleared nor approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.