Goodbye Poke, Hello Pee: Alternatives to Plasma for Heart Disease Diagnosis

I admit it: The sight of needles gives me the shivers. The moment the doc requests a blood sample, I want to hightail it to the next state over. And I am not alone in this viewpoint. Many people despise needles. This apprehension can be bad enough that people forgo medical treatment just to avoid the poke.

How nice would it be if lab samples could be collected without involving pain? Happily, this idea is becoming a reality.

Researchers at SomaLogic and the University of California San Francisco have sought to minimize the use of the dreaded needles by utilizing urine instead of plasma to assess heart health (Hraha et al., 2016). When arteries start to harden (arteriosclerosis), changes occur throughout the body, even in kidneys. And certain changes in the kidneys could potentially be observed through fluctuations in protein signatures in urine.

With access to urine and plasma samples from people with stable coronary heart disease, the researchers began their quest. To identify potential biomarkers, they used a version of the SOMAscan® assay that measured 4316 protein concentrations simultaneously. These measurements were compiled with the patients’ medical histories to yield a panel of markers that could predict an oncoming cardiovascular event. The panel performance for urine samples was comparable to a panel developed for plasma, which itself already performed better than standard prediction methods (Ganz et al., 2016).

Jubilation! It is foreseeable that urine collection can replace blood collection in the near future, helping ease people’s minds. It may make them more inclined to go to the doc and not forgo medical treatment.


Ganz, P., Heidecker, B., Hveem, K., Jonasson, C., Kato, S., Segal, M. R., . . . Williams, S. A. (2016). Development and Validation of a Protein-Based Risk Score for Cardiovascular Outcomes Among Patients With Stable Coronary Heart Disease. JAMA, 315(23), 2532-2541. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.5951

Hraha, T., DeLisle R., Ash, J., Ostroff R., Williams S., Ganz P. (2016, November). Urinary Proteome and Its Application to Predict Cardiovascular Risk in Patients with Stable Coronary Heart Disease. Poster session presented at American Heart Association Scientific Sessions, New Orleans, LA.