A new blood test could use a single plasma sample to assess health and predict the likelihood of developing a range of diseases. Thanks to Theranos, this may sound familiar, but unlike that debacle, this proof-of-concept is backed by research published in Nature Medicine.
The study, led by scientists at UC San Francisco, Cambridge University and the Colorado-based biotech company SomaLogic, scans plasma for a wide range of proteins. The tech searches plasma for aptamers, fragments of DNA that bind to a target protein. Only specific fragments bind to particular proteins, so by searching for aptamers, researchers can determine which proteins are present and in what concentrations.
That info is then fed into machine learning algorithms and used to predict things like the patient’s risk of developing diabetes or cardiovascular disease. It’s still early for this proof-of-principle, but the team of researchers believe that, as the technology improves and becomes more affordable, it could help physicians run a comprehensive health evaluation, using just one sample of blood. They’re calling it a “liquid health check.”