SomaLogic technology used to discover protein that reverses age-related cardiac hypertrophy in mice


Unbiased proteomic approach helps researchers identify blood-based factor that holds promise for treating human cardiac failure

In a scientific study published today in the journal Cell, a team of researchers led by scientists from the Harvard Stem Cell Institute and including scientists from SomaLogic, describe the discovery of a circulating protein, called GDF-11 (Growth Differentiation Factor 11), that can reverse age-related cardiac hypertrophy in mice. The GDF-11 protein was identified using SomaLogic’s breakthrough proteomics technology.

Age-related cardiac hypertrophy is a major factor in diastolic heart failure, the most common form of heart failure in the United States.  The authors of the Cell paper found evidence suggesting that a blood-based circulating factor that maintains normal cardiac size is either diminished or loses its effectiveness as the body ages. The researchers demonstrated that such a factor exists by using mouse models of cardiac hypertrophy, and subsequently identified a candidate factor by combing through metabolites, lipids and proteins in the blood. Their protein analysis, using SomaLogic’s SOMAscan™ assay, revealed several proteins whose levels of expression change with age, and this led to the discovery of GDF-11. The researchers then demonstrated that treating older mice with a recombinant version of the GDF-11 protein can rapidly reverse age-related cardiac hypertrophy. Studies aimed at extending these observations to humans are underway.

“It has been technically challenging to identify specific proteins of interest out of the complex mixture of proteins that circulate through the body, especially those that are associated with diseases of aging,” said Prof. Richard T. Lee, an investigator at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, a cardiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and, one of the senior authors of the Cell paper. “Working with SomaLogic scientists to deploy their new proteomic technology in this study allowed us to do such screening rapidly and effectively.”

A more complete description of the work published in Cell can be found in the Harvard Magazine. An abstract of the manuscript, “Identification of Growth Differentiation Factor 11 as a Circulating Factor that Reverses Age-Related Cardiac Hypertrophy,” is available at the journal site (note: subscription required for the whole paper). A video explaining the work and its findings is available here.

Alex Stewart and Britta Singer of SomaLogic are co-authors of the Cell paper, along with significant contributions from the SOMAscan assay and bioinformatics groups. SomaLogic scientists and their colleagues at UCSF (including Dr. Peter Ganz) have independently found preliminary evidence that GDF-11 deficiency is a potential biomarker for assessing the risk of heart failure in humans, work that was presented at the American Heart Association 2012 Scientific Sessions.