New method for protein analysis based “liquid biopsy”

Published: 2019-05-02


Blood sample analysis or “liquid biopsy” is a good way to quickly get a general overview of a person’s health. Unfortunately, most methods currently available only detect blood proteins and are not sensitive enough to analyze the less abundant tissue leakage proteins, consisting of cellular proteins leaked from a large variety of tissues from all over the body. By gathering information about those proteins vital information about a person’s health could be obtained.

In a recent study led by Janne Lehtiö (SciLifeLab/Karolinska Institutet) researchers developed a new method, able to detect tissue leakage proteins as well as protein variants often visible in diseases, by using Mass spectroscopy and Liquid chromatography. The data has the potential to identify several conditions such as cancer, heart failure and infections by plasma sample analysis.

The capability to analyze protein variants was tested in blood proteomes from mothers and their unborn children and by using the method the researchers could, for the first time, trace proteins that were transferred across the placenta.

“The method has unique capabilities to detect proteins with sequence alterations while retaining good sample throughput, something that is key in clinical studies” says Maria Pernemalm (Karolinska Institutet), shared first author of the paper published in eLife this April.

“Studying the fetal-maternal crosstalk is just an example of what the method could be applied for. We also see great potential for the method in the cancer field when developing personalized medicine taking advantage of the robust detection of traces of tissue proteome in plasma” continues Janne Lehtiö, head of the Cancer Proteomics group where the method was developed.