- Blood sample can reveal information about a person's lifestyle.
- This can be done by identification of the levels of about 160 different proteins in the blood.
- Protein levels in the blood can reveal lifestyle-related information such as consumption of tobacco.
A small blood sample can reveal the different levels of proteins in the blood and provide lifestyle-related information of the person, recent research at the Umea University, Sweden, finds.
People who use moist snuff called 'snus' have significantly higher levels of the protein cornulin in their blood than non-snusers. Whether higher levels per se increase the risk of disease has, however, not yet been clarified.
‘According to this study, hundreds of proteins can be identified in less than a drop of blood. This identification of proteins in a small blood sample can reveal a person’s lifestyle, such as tobacco consumption.’
"It's important to know about this type of association if you want to use blood-based markers for disease. For some markers, acceptable limits might have to be individualized, since lifestyle factors can influence background levels," says Robin Myte, doctoral student at Umea University and one of the researchers behind the study.
Finding information on lifestyle among 160 proteins in the blood
The study investigated whether a person's lifestyle can be reflected in the blood levels of 160 different proteins. The study is based on blood samples and lifestyle data collected during health examinations in the Västerbotten Intervention Program in northern Sweden.
It is now possible to measure the levels of hundreds of proteins in less than a drop of blood. The scientists hope that one or more of the proteins included in the study may someday be used to detect and predict diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease or cancer. Previous studies have shown that tobacco habits, physical activity and alcohol consumption
affect health, and probably also the protein composition in the blood. But the relationships among them are largely unknown.
For each of the 138 participants in the study, two blood samples, collected ten years apart, were analyzed. Several proteins were linked to different lifestyle behaviors. The strongest finding was that snusers had significantly higher levels of the protein cornulin compared to non-snusers.
Swedish snus, also called moist snuff, is a finely ground, moistened smokeless tobacco product, placed in a lump or tea-bag-like portion between the lip and the gum.
Cornulin - a protein that reveals consumption of tobacco products
Cornulin is a protein that is produced mainly in the mouth and throat by cells exposed to external stress. The newly discovered relationship between snus and cornulin levels was completely independent of whether or not the participants were smokers. The association was also confirmed in another study, through collaboration with researchers from Uppsala University. The consistent results increase the reliability of the finding. On the other hand, it is still unclear whether the higher cornulin levels in snusers are linked to an increased risk of disease.
"Protein markers are an exciting tool for diagnosis and early detection of diseases, but protein levels may vary due to many different factors. That is why we aimed to map some of the 'normal' variation in protein levels in our study," says Robin Myte.
- Anneli Sundkvist, Robin Myte et al. Targeted Plasma Proteomics Identifies a Novel, Robust Association between Cornulin and Swedish Moist Snuff, Scientific Reports doi:10.1038/s41598-018-20794-3