Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Scientific Communities
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article

New Testing Strategy Detects Population-Wide Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies

Published: Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Last Updated: Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Bookmark and Share
Could speed mass intervention in developing countries.

Johns Hopkins researchers have demonstrated that levels of certain proteins in the bloodstream may be used to estimate levels of essential vitamins and minerals without directly testing for each nutritional factor. The team's use of a new strategy allowed them to indirectly measure amounts of multiple nutrients in multiple people at the same time, an advance that should make it possible in the future to rapidly detect nutritional deficiencies of an entire population, apply remediation efforts and test their worth within months instead of years.

A summary of the study, which analyzed the levels of five vitamins and minerals in 500 undernourished Nepalese children, was published in the October issue of The Journal of Nutrition.

"Currently, levels of each vitamin or mineral are measured by different tests which are often performed in different labs, so the whole process can take three or four years to detect widespread deficiencies," says Keith West, Dr.P.H., M.P.H., the George G. Graham Professor of Infant and Child Nutrition. "That's too long to wait when the proper growth and cognitive development of children are on the line."

According to West, over 30 vitamins and minerals are essential to human health, and conventional methods for measuring their levels rely on running multiple different tests for each person. The time and cost involved are high enough to be entirely prohibitive at the population level (several hundreds of thousands of dollars), especially in developing countries, he says.

To overcome this barrier, the team focused on what all vitamins and minerals have in common: that each does its job by interacting with proteins throughout the body. Because methods already exist for simultaneously identifying the relative amounts of hundreds of proteins in a single sample of blood, the team wondered if some of those protein levels could be correlated with the levels of their associated nutrients, and thus act as “proxies” for the nutrients.

Using blood samples taken from 500 6- to 8-year-old Nepalese children, the researchers first analyzed the levels of vitamins and minerals according to conventional methods, and then they used a method called mass spectrometry to identify and quantify proteins levels in the same samples. They focused on five nutrients (vitamins A, D and E, and copper and selenium) and five proteins that were already known to be closely related to them. However, instead of performing a separate test for each nutrient’s protein, they analyzed all five proteins, plus many others in the samples, in a single experiment.

"Mass spectrometry allows us to measure the quantities of 500 to 1,000 proteins in the blood at one time," says Robert Cole, Ph.D., director of the Mass Spectrometry and Proteomics Facility. "Not only that, we can mark all of the proteins from a single sample with a chemical tag that identifies them in the resulting data,” he adds, and “because there are eight different tags available, we could tag eight different samples and then mix them together and analyze the eight samples at the same time, directly comparing the samples and saving a lot of time."

At the heart of their experiment, says West, lies the assumption that there are proteins in the bloodstream whose quantities reliably change with the levels of certain nutrients. For example, retinol binding protein (RBP) binds to vitamin A and carries it through the bloodstream to every part of the body, so the researchers theorized that levels of RBP in the children’s blood would be a good proxy for their vitamin A levels. To test this assumption, they compared their mass spectrometry results with those of conventional methods for measuring nutrient levels, and found that, for each nutrient, there were often not just one but several proteins whose levels were significantly correlated with the nutrient levels obtained by conventional means.

According to West, there is reason to believe that other vitamins and minerals will also have good proxy proteins. Their goal is to create a simple, portable test kit that would measure many proxy proteins from a single sample in a single test for under $100 per sample. “That would allow us to determine the level of nutrient deficiencies in a whole population within a few months,” says West. “Then we could implement a remedy, like fortifying foods with particular nutrients — something tailored to the needs and habits of the particular population — and then follow up with more tests later to make sure the remedy is working.”

The lure of easily and cheaply monitoring many nutrient-related proteins at once also opens the possibility that the new method could be used to monitor nutritional changes in a population over time. The team expects this technique could also be used to measure natural changes, like hormone levels, in healthy subjects and to track changes in protein levels that occur due to the progression of difficult-to-define diseases like Alzheimer’s.

Further Information

Join For Free

Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 3,500+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More Than 5,200+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters

Sign In

Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Uncovering the Genetics Behind High Blood Pressure
Results suggest a role for blood vessels themselves in controlling blood pressure.
Wednesday, September 14, 2016
Fruit Fly Pheromone Flags Great Real Estate for Starting a Family
Finding could aid efforts to control mosquito-borne diseases like malaria by manipulating odorants
Tuesday, October 13, 2015
Paternal Sperm May Hold Clues to Autism
Tags on DNA from fathers’ sperm linked to children’s autism symptoms.
Friday, April 17, 2015
New Autism-Causing Genetic Variant Identified
Novel approach expected to be useful for other diseases too.
Saturday, March 28, 2015
Bad Luck of Random Mutations Plays Predominant Role in Cancer, Study Shows
Statistical modeling links cancer risk with number of stem cell divisions.
Tuesday, January 06, 2015
Enzyme's Alter Ego Helps Activate the Immune System
Findings could shed light on related Alzheimer's protein.
Tuesday, January 06, 2015
Researchers Tease Out Glitches in Immune System's Self-Recognition
A new study revises understanding of how the process works and sheds light on autoimmune disease.
Saturday, November 22, 2014
Cancer Leaves a Common Fingerprint on DNA
Chemical alterations to genes appear key to tumor development.
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Researchers Use Human Stem Cells to Create Light-Sensitive Retina in a Dish
Johns Hopkins researchers have created a 3-D complement of human retinal tissue in the laboratory.
Saturday, June 14, 2014
Signals Found That Recruit Host Animals’ Cells, Enabling Breast Cancer Metastasis
Mouse studies suggest that blocking aid from white blood cells and stem cells could keep tumors contained.
Thursday, May 22, 2014
Common Genetic Pathway Could Be Conduit to Pediatric Tumor Treatment
Investigators have found a known genetic pathway to be active in many difficult-to-treat pediatric brain tumors called low-grade gliomas.
Monday, November 11, 2013
A Simple Blood Test May Catch Early Pancreatic Cancer
Currently, disease usually found too late to save lives.
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Stem Cells may do Best with a Little Help from their Friends
“Helper cells” improve survival rate of transplanted stem cells, mouse study finds.
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Molecular Marker Predicts Patients Most Likely to Benefit Longest From Two Popular Cancer Drugs
Preliminary study needs further confirmation.
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Discovery Increases Diagnostic Certainty and Opportunity for Individualized Drug Therapy
Of the over 1,900 errors already reported in the gene responsible for CF, it is unclear how many of them actually contribute to the inherited disease.
Thursday, August 29, 2013
Scientific News
How it Works: Advanced Data Analysis Using Visualization
Visualisation of data can be used to help molecular biologists tackle the vast datasets their experiments create.
Unravelling the Role of Key Genes and DNA Methylation in Blood Cell Malignancies
Researchers from the University of Nebraska Medical Center have demonstrated the role of Dnmt3a in safeguarding normal haematopoiesis.
Salford Lung Study - The First Real World Clinical Trial
In this podcast, we learn about the Salford Lung Study and its potential to revolutionize the way we assess new drugs and treatments around the world.
Point of Care Diagnostics - A Cautious Revolution
Advances in molecular biology, coupled with the miniaturization and improved sensitivity of assays and devices in general, have enabled a new wave of point-of-care (POC) or “bedside” diagnostics.
Robotic Cleaning Technique Could Automate Neuroscience Research
New robotic cleaning technique allows pipettes used in patch-clamping to be re-used up to 11 or more times.
Influential Cancer Researcher Receives Agilent Thought Leader Award
Biologist Scott Lowe receives award in recognition for his contributions to cancer biology.
Ebola-Affected Countries Receive NIH Support
The National Institutes of Health has established a new program to further research capacity to study Ebola and other epidemics.
Skin Patch to Treat Peanut Allergy
NIH-funded study suggests peanut protein patch is a safe and convenient method of treatment.
Startup Seeks More Precise Prostate Cancer Screening
Gregor Diagnostics aims to bring a non-invasive prostate cancer screening test to the market.
Scientists Uncover Why Hepatitis C Vaccine is Difficult to Make
Scientists have uncovered one reason why a successful hepatitis C vaccine continues to be elusive.
Scroll Up
Scroll Down
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
3,500+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
5,200+ scientific videos