Thousands of beautiful languages fill this world. But did you know the human body is also filled with different languages? Genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics and metabolomics are all examples of the body’s many languages. Understanding these languages could open the door to new perspectives about what is happening in the body in real time and warn about health problems down the road. But which one (or combo) will be the easiest, clearest, and most meaningful for learning how to achieve better health?
It might be argued that listening to everything is best. If it can be measured (or heard in our analogy), then it must be insightful. But is it? Listening to many voices (let alone different languages) in a room can make it difficult to understand what is being said. Would this hold true for listening to our multi-lingual human bodies?
In a recent PNAS paper, a team assessed the value of combining genomics with metabolomics, advanced imaging (e.g., magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)), existing health records and family history to evaluate an individual’s health as a means of precision medicine protocol (Hou et al., 2020). Looking at just a person’s genetic material, the researchers found changes that “traditionally” meant that the person should be experiencing symptoms, but they were just fine. When the information from DNA was combined with all the other diagnostics, some genetic correlation to physical manifestations of dyslipidemia, cardiomyopathy and arrhythmia, diabetes or endocrine diseases was seen. Thus, it could be envisioned that a person could get a genetic test to find variants and then undergo additional screenings (which would become routine forevermore) that involve imaging or other procedures to determine if a problem is cropping up.
But, is this really an ideal way? The approach might be cumbersome to the patient, pricey (MRIs are not cheap), and comes with its own risks. Could routine screenings be done in a simpler way, and possibly cheaper, to encourage a broader adoption of listening to our multi-lingual bodies?
At SomaLogic, we are extremely optimistic about the proteomic language being the solution, offering a simple, clear virtuoso solo that alerts to impeding health events (Williams et al., 2019). In place of many diagnostic tests for routine screening, a person could get one simple blood test that could tell them about their 4-year risk of a stroke, heart failure or heart attack, the status of their liver, diabetes risk and information about how well they are aging (this is just the beginning). Having this information from one sample and from one office visit would offer convenience to the patient and maybe even enough time to prevent a heart attack, stroke, heart failure, liver failure, etc. from happening. Listening to the body’s proteomic message may give the person the power to achieve better health.
Hou, Y. C., Yu, H. C., Martin, R., Cirulli, E. T., Schenker-Ahmed, N. M., Hicks, M., . . . Caskey, C. T. (2020). Precision medicine integrating whole-genome sequencing, comprehensive metabolomics, and advanced imaging. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 117(6), 3053-3062. doi:10.1073/pnas.1909378117
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