A geneticist studied a drop of his blood—and saw things he couldn’t see from a vial of blood.


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It can be said that Michael Snyder is obsessed with learning about the inner workings of his own body. The Stanford University geneticist once tracked himself down for diabetes.

Now, in a new paper, he repeated blood sampling every day for a week—14 samples per day, 98 times in total. He used a new method he and his team developed, using a drop obtained from a finger sting rather than vial after vial taken from his elbow.

Research published on Natural biomedical engineering Thursday morning, showed that Snyder and his colleagues could obtain results almost the same as a typical blood draw from a sample 1,000 times smaller.

In addition to learning more about her own biology, Snyder thinks it provides a new way of tracking health measures and may eventually replace drawing blood at a local doctor’s office. Such microscopy, he says, is convenient, can be done more frequently than annual or semi-annual blood draws, and does not require visits to the clinic with a doctor. patient.

“I think it will replace the way we monitor health,” Snyder said.

Dr Eric Topol, founder and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, who was not involved in the work, said the sampling was provocative, but not ready for widespread use.

“It’s an unprecedented level of deep data collection,” Topol said. “Whether that helps is another question.”

‘It’s Theranos That Works’

Snyder compared the technology to the completely discredited approach of the company Theranos, whose former CEO and chairman are now behind bars.

“It was Theranos that worked,” Snyder says of his own technology.

Theranos also uses a single drop of blood, but in Snyder’s approach, the blood is sent to a conventional laboratory to sort molecules based on their mass and charge, while Theranos promises a process. new analysis never worked.

Other companies are currently developing blood tests based on a single drop, but Snyder envisions that he will be conducted more often at home, rather than occasional visits to the doctor.

What the study found

Snyder and his colleagues examined a range of factors from each sample, including those related to metabolism, Immune System, blood sugar and other medical measures.

In his own samples, he can see how his body metabolizes aspirin and how long it takes for his blood sugar to spike after eating, which is very helpful for people with the disease. diabetic like him.

He sees a link between caffeine consumption and poor sleep. “I have a little less now and try to stop earlier,” he said, though he’s not sure if it makes a difference.

The researchers also tested the blood of 28 people four hours after they drank a bottle of Ensure. A group, probably people with insulin resistancereacts very quickly to drinks and in some people it increases their inflammation levels, suggesting they are not beneficial.

Others process the shake more slowly, and in some, markers of inflammation decrease, suggesting it may be beneficial. Knowing which foods cause or reduce inflammation “would be very, very effective,” says Snyder, to help people make more personalized decisions about which foods to eat or avoid.

What are the challenges?

Snyder has founded two research-based companies: RTHM, which is using the method to look at long-term COVID, and Iollo, a metabolic testing company that is working to make the tests publicly available. this blood. It is not clear how much the test will cost.

But computer technology has yet to thoroughly analyze such a complex set of data collected over and over again, Topol said, and not everyone wants to draw their own blood or send it in the mail. .

“This is fascinating,” Topol said, but “this is very human-related. It’s very expensive. These practical issues will have to be validated that it’s worth it.”

What is the potential of this type of blood draw work?

Wearable devices, like watches, focus on collecting physical parameters, while molecular information Wei Gao, assistant professor of medical engineering at the California Institute of Technology, said by email.

“This technology provides a possible way to collect the rich molecular information in everyday human life by drawing blood from an easily accessible finger,” said Gao.

The method could eventually be used to monitor stress, track early signs of illness, and see which foods are problematic for whom, Snyder says.

He and his team have begun monitoring patients with Chronic fatigue syndromealso known as encephalomyelitis, to see what’s causing their burnout and identify signs of an impending crash.

They are also preparing to launch a study looking at how “exosomes”—pollution, chemicals, bacteria, pollen and molds in the environment—affect the chemical composition of someone’s blood. .

“I can see nearly all of the blood tests being done from home in the future,” Snyder said. “It just makes sense.”

More information:
Xiaotao Shen et al., Multi-omics microsampling to profile lifestyle-related changes in health, Natural biomedical engineering (2023). DOI: 10.1038/s41551-022-00999-8

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