What do you have in common with this chicken? Perplexed? So is the chicken. While the two of you may cross roads from time to time, the features that really bind the two of you together are proteins.

Yes, chicken is a source of healthy proteins, but that is not what I mean. The protein connection I want to talk about is the fact that you are made up of proteins, which can reveal quite a bit about your health (and probably the chicken’s, for that matter).

In fact, pretty much every biological process you can think of relies on proteins. You name it (seeing, hearing, tasting, etc.), proteins (tens, hundreds or even thousands) are involved. By studying changes in protein levels, it is possible to learn how to gain a better “health span” (how long you will enjoy good health) that will hopefully last longer than the chicken’s.

For example, protein levels reflect the molecular changes that happen in our blood as a result of the fat in our bodies. As many of us know all too well, our bodies can stuff fat pretty much everywhere; under the skin, in our livers and in between abdominal organs (visceral fat). Detecting and measuring that fat, especially in early storage stages, can be difficult for accuracy and cost reasons (e.g., the use of measuring tape and pincers or the need for high tech measurement machines). But we have found that we can accurately tell what you are packing (or not) just by looking at proteins in your blood.

Recently, SomaLogic scientists published a proof-of-concept study that illustrates the health-management potential of blood-based proteins for things like fat measurement. Using samples and data from a large health study, our researchers and their collaborators found that changes in 219 proteins could indicate a person’s body fat percentage, 115 proteins signifying a person’s lean body mass and 96 proteins specifying a person’s amount of visceral fat (For the statistic buffs, check out the paper (Williams et al., 2019)!).

We believe that this kind of information will empower people to live healthier lives. We have known for a long time that obesity can increase the chances of developing type two diabetes, metabolic syndrome and other chronic health problems. Even if a person is not classified as “obese,” they may be harboring quite a bit of visceral fat, negatively affecting their health without their knowledge (Shuster, Patlas, Pinthus, & Mourtzakis, 2012). We hope our approach can change not just how people can avoid metabolic disease, but a whole host of common diseases and conditions.

What does this mean for the chicken? It is still a protein source, but maybe not always a good one. A discussion for another time.

 

References

Shuster, A., Patlas, M., Pinthus, J. H., & Mourtzakis, M. (2012). The clinical importance of visceral adiposity: a critical review of methods for visceral adipose tissue analysis. Br J Radiol, 85(1009), 1-10. doi:10.1259/bjr/38447238

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