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Funded SCIBAR projects

Assessing Hidden Hunger through Plasma Proteomics

Micronutrient deficiencies threaten the health, development and survival of an estimated~2 billion women, infants and children in impoverished societies. This is almost certainly an underestimate as it derives from 1992 and was based on infrequent surveys assessing 3 of ~20 essential micronutrients. While UN, bilateral and other agencies lament the lack of data to guide prevention, few advances have occurred in the interim to reveal Hidden Hunger. Biochemical analyses using a variety of laboratory techniques to assess a variety of known biomarkers of micronutrient status in human plasma remain the convention for assessing status, but these approaches are costly, logistically and technically demanding, slow, and only assess at best a few nutrients at a time. A typical micronutrient survey, assessing 3-4 nutrients, can take 2-4 years to complete and report, and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. As a result, comprehensive and frequent estimates of micronutrient deficiencies are rarely available in low-resource settings, leaving interventions poorly informed, targeted and evaluated. Needed is a single, inexpensive, technically straightforward, rapid assay/platform on which to simultaneously assess multiple micronutrient deficiencies. Our plan is to use bioarchived specimens from population studies in rural Bangladesh with well-characterized micronutrient status to measure the plasma proteome using aptamer-based technology. We will relate plasma proteins to conventional plasma micronutrient status indicators to identify proteins that can be modeled to predict micronutrient status, for which the proof of principle has been established. Following validation, we will embark on identifying an approach for assessing a panel of proteins that together can be utilized to characterize population status that can be utilized by laboratories in low and middle income country (LMIC) settings, putting the power of population assessment in the hands of those who can best utilize it for optimizing population health.

Primary Investigators

  • Keith P. West, Jr. DrPH
    International Health,
    Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Co-Investigators & Partners

  • Kerry J. Schulze
    International Health,
    Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
  • Casey Rebholz
    Epidemiology,
    Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
    Welch Center,
    Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
  • Hyunju Kimm
    Epidemiology,
    Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
  • Robert Cole
    Mass Spectrometry and Proteomics Core Facility,
    Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
  • Parul Christian
    International Health,
    Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
  • John Groopman
    Environmental Health & Engineering,
    Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
  • James D. Yager
    Environmental Health & Engineering ,
    Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
  • Michael Fenech
    Clinical and Health Sciences ,
    University of South Australia