Protein Quantification & Identification: A Webinar with Dr. Jennifer E. Van Eyk

We had the privilege of hosting a webinar led by Dr. Jennifer E. Van Eyk, professor of medicine at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Jennifer has been a long-time friend and supporter of Quanterix and we were honored to have her share her expertise with attendees. During the webinar, Dr. Van Eyk discussed the need for precise protein quantification and identification to advance personalized medicine, which is a topic that is very near and dear to the work we do here at Quanterix. The future of healthcare relies on our ability to accelerate precision medicine to diagnose diseases before symptoms present. 

Proteins are critical in helping us reach this goal, as they hold the key to helping us understand a patient’s personalized needs. The protein’s power comes from its ability to account for environmental factors, providing insight into what is happening in a patient’s body in real time. Genes on the other hand, are stagnant from birth and provide a window into fixed health information, such as hereditary risk. While they may tell you if you are at risk for developing a certain disease later in life, they are less likely to be able to determine what’s happening in your body at a given moment, or account for the impact of environmental factors, such as lifestyle, diet and exercise, which account for 70% of our health (PBS).

During the webinar, Dr. Van Eyk highlighted the importance of including proteins as part of the molecular phenotyping of an individual. Patient populations are extremely diverse, so we need to look at individual proteins to fully understand each patient’s needs. Differences in proteomic baselines can affect an individual’s specific response to treatment, and can have a huge impact on the efficacy of treatment. But it all comes down to sensitivity, specificity and selectivity.

Let’s use the example of heart disease again. 26 million people world-wide experience heart failure. Further, roughly 33% of individuals who survive a heart attack end up developing heart failure again within one to two years. With today’s medicine and technology, it is possible to analyze biomarkers that could help clinicians understand the progression of the disease and detect it early on, leading to better, more effective treatment. With such aggressive and dangerous diseases, hitting the window of opportunity for the most effective treatment is critical. In order to be most effective, you have to know which specific proteins to accurately monitor for. Dr. Van Eyk discussed the use of cTnI for cardiology and the diagnoses of heart disease. 

cTnI is a critical protein dominant in myocyte, and is cardiac tissue specific. In addition, it is the key contractile protein that causes muscles to contract and relax. A recent task force study from the International Federation of Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine (IFCC) used our Simoa technology to specifically look at sensitivity for cTnI. The goal was to analyze this biomarker in healthy individuals to detect potential risk of heart disease. 200 males and females were examined during the study. Using Simoa, researchers were able to quantify samples, even at the lowest levels. In fact, they were able to obtain quantitative data for cTnl in roughly 94% of healthy individuals, showing the reliability of cTnl as a biomarker for cardiac diseases. In addition, results indicated that healthy baseline levels of cTnl change based on a person’s sex and age.

The smallest changes in protein levels can have a dramatic impact on treatment decisions, so the ability to detect these minute changes in real-time could help doctors spot diseases before symptoms occur and accurately predict disease progressions. With the accurate identification and quantification of proteins, we can provide the specificity needed to develop precision-based medicine and apply it at the individual level. Our Simoa technology has the ability to do just this, and can play a critical part in further transforming patient care.

We’d like to again thank Dr. Van Eyk for taking the time out of her schedule to share her research, and for being a constant supporter of Quanterix and our mission to change and improve the way in which healthcare is provided.