Does a photograph provides the most realistic picture of you? It does not. A painting of you represented by thousands of small dots (an art style known as pointillism) would be the most realistic – especially from a health perspective. Why?
Just like pointillism works of art, we can see the outlines of a complete individual from a distance. When we start getting closer and closer and look at a person from a molecular standpoint, we see that a person is made up proteins, DNA, RNA, fat molecules, etc. Getting even closer, it seems that each dot or molecule can tell us a little bit about the subject, but not provide a fuller picture.
An example may illustrate the point (!). Medical tests, such as the one for prostate-specific antigen (PSA), often look at a single protein in the screening for a disease. However, PSA screening can be problematic for some, leading to unnecessary procedures and unnecessary patient/family anxiety. Looking at just a single protein can warp the perception of the current health status of the patient. As in the case of PSA, a step back to look at all the dots (proteins) that make up you could help provide a clearer picture of your health and indicate what directions need to be taken (Webber et al., 2014; Welton et al., 2016).
Why on earth would looking at thousands of proteins simultaneously provide a better picture of your health? Well, it turns out that proteins are involved in pretty much every single function that your body does to keep you alive and grooving to your tunes. Significant numbers of these proteins are dynamic, meaning that their concentration changes in relation to your lifestyle choices and current health status. Looking at how your proteins change with time can indicate your health journey: whether it will be a healthy one or one plagued with horrendous pitfalls.
Sadly, before now the research/medical community could only get small glimpses into your protein portrait. But now we have the ability to see a more complete picture of how the wide range of protein changes are related to the fuller picture of your health and disease. With the ability to look at thousands of proteins at once, our SomaScan® Platform allows us to paint your protein portrait — your current health status and trajectory — across multiple diseases and conditions.
This new technology is just now becoming available in select places, and it will take some time to become more widely accessible. When it does, we believe that each person will benefit from having their portrait done in a way that captures what is most “real” about their health at that moment in a very precise and personal way.
Webber, J., Stone, T. C., Katilius, E., Smith, B. C., Gordon, B., Mason, M. D., . . . Clayton, A. (2014). Proteomics analysis of cancer exosomes using a novel modified aptamer-based array (SOMAscan) platform. Mol Cell Proteomics, 13(4), 1050-1064. doi:10.1074/mcp.M113.032136
Welton, J. L., Brennan, P., Gurney, M., Webber, J. P., Spary, L. K., Carton, D. G., . . . Clayton, A. (2016). Proteomics analysis of vesicles isolated from plasma and urine of prostate cancer patients using a multiplex, aptamer-based protein array. J Extracell Vesicles, 5, 31209. doi:10.3402/jev.v5.31209