Tonight on ‘Catalyst:’ Researchers work on new test to check health

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Developed at ASU’s Biodesign Institute in Tempe, a new science called immunosignatures has been found to create a bigger and fuller picture of one’s health from just a drop a blood, and tonight “Catalyst” speaks to the researchers behind the science.

The immunosignatures can be found through one drop of blood or just a swab of saliva. The test lays out the billion different kinds of antibodies a human carries at any give time. Antibodies are what attacks infections and protects against disease. The signature shows how much of each kind of antibody you have, and it helps to detect an infection before the person starts having symptoms.

“Probably the most important advance we can have in health generally for the whole world is early detection of disease,” Director of Center for Innovations in Medicine Stephen Johnston, Ph.D says. “We can just take a drop of blood and measure the antibodies that you have in your system at the time.”

 

Catalyst airs on Thursdays at 9 p.m. on Arizona PBS.

TED SIMONS: MOST AMERICANS ARE PAYING MORE FOR HEALTH CARE AND HEALTH INSURANCE EVERY YEAR. A CHUNK OF THAT MONEY GOES INTO TESTS FOR PROBLEMS YOU MIGHT HAVE AND DISEASES YOU MIGHT GET. TONIGHT ON "CATALYST," WE'LL SHOW HOW RESEARCHERS WORKING HERE IN ARIZONA ARE DEVELOPING A "NEW" TEST THAT COULD BE A FAR MORE POWERFUL TOOL IN FINDING -AND PREDICTING -HEALTH PROBLEMS. "CATALYST" EXECUTIVE PRODUCER STEVE FILMER IS HERE WITH A LOOK AHEAD. TELL US MORE, PLEASE.

STEVE FILMER: TED, IF YOU EVER FEEL A BIT FAINT' -OR EVEN NEED TO JUST LOOK AWAY -WHEN THEY DRAW YOUR BLOOD, YOU'LL APPRECIATE THIS NEW TEST. THE NEW SCIENCE IS BEING CALLED "IMMUNO-SIGNATURES." A WAY TO GET A MUCH BIGGER, MUCH FULLER PICTURE OF WHAT'S GOING ON WITH YOUR HEALTH, FROM AS LITTLE AS JUST ONE DROP OF BLOOD.

SOT: PROBABLY THE MOST IMPORTANT ADVANCE WE COULD HAVE IN HEALTH GENERALLY, FOR THE WHOLE WORLD NOT JUST PEOPLE IN THE UNITED STATES, IS EARLY DETECTION OF DISEASE. WE CAN TAKE A DROP OF BLOOD AND MEASURE THE ANTIBODIES YOU HAVE IN YOUR SYSTEM AT THE TIME.

REPORTER: ANTIBODIES ARE LIKE GUIDED MISSILES ATTACHING THEMSELVES TO ONE TYPE OF INVADER. EVEN AFTER AN INFECTION IS GONE, THE ANTIBODIES ARE THERETO GUARD AGAINST ANOTHER ATTACK.

SOT: YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM AMPLIFIES THE SYSTEM.

REPORTER: ANTIBODIES ATTACH THEMSELVES TO PEPTIDES, THE SMALL PIECES A MICROBIAL INVADER IS MADE OF.

SOT: YOU HAVE A BILLION ANTIBODIES IN YOU. WE HAVE FIGURED OUT HOW TO DISPLAY THEM OUT ON A SURFACE AND MEASURE HOW MUCH OF EACH ONE THERE ARE AND GET A FINGERPRINT OF WHAT YOUR IMMUNE STATUS IS.

REPORTER: DR. STEPHEN JOHNSON IS FROM THE BIODESIGN INSTITUTE.

SOT: THIS IS A STANDARD ARRAY THAT INTEL USES. I CAN SEE THE SQUARES HERE. WE HAVE A HUNDRED THOUSAND PIECES OF PEPTIDES, PROTEINS.

REPORTER: RESEARCHES USE THEM AS A BAIT TO SEE IF A PERSON'S IMMUNE SYSTEM HAS BEEN EXPOSED BEFORE.

SOT: WE GET AN IMAGE OF YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM. ON THE ARRAY, WE MEASURE THE ANTIBODIES TO THE ELEMENTS. THAT MAKES YOUR IMMUNE SIGNATURE AT THAT POINT. THAT'S ALL THERE IS TO IT. WE TAKE THIS ARRAY HERE AND CUT THEM INTO A STANDARD SLIDE SO IT CAN GO INTO STANDARD PROCESSING SYSTEMS. YOU TAKE A DROP OF BLOOD FROM YOUR FINGER STICK OR SALIVA. WE CAN TAKE THAT AND TAKE A HOLE PUNCH OF THAT OFF OF THE FILTER AND PUT IT ON THE ARRAY. THE ANTIBODIES BIND ON THE SURFACE. WE WASH IT OFF AND DETECT THE ANTIBODIES.

SOT 2: THE GREEN YOU SEE IS WHERE THE PEPTIDES ARE. IF YOU ZOOM IN, YOU SEE INDIVIDUAL PEPTIDES. THEY ARE SMALL. THE RED INDICATES HIGH BINDING. THERE ARE A LOT OF ANTIBODIES THAT BIND TO THE PEPTIDE. YOU GET A BIG, COMPLEX PATTERN AND YOU SEE WHAT YOU HAVE BEEN EXPOSED TO, CANCER, DISEASE, ALZHEIMER'S. YOU CAN PULL THE PATTERN OUT AND PREDICT THE HEALTH STATUS.

SOT: WE TAKE A HUNDRED PEOPLE WITH BREAST CANCER AND A HUNDRED WITHOUT BREAST CANCER, AND WE LOOK AT THEIR SIGNATURES AND SAY WHAT PART OF THEIR SIGNATURE DO PEOPLE ALWAYS HAVE THAT PEOPLE WITHOUT BREAST CANCER DON'T HAVE? IT'S PERSONAL. WE WATCH FOR GENERAL SIGNATURE AND PERSONAL SIGNATURES CHANGING OVER TIME. I THINK WHAT'S IMPORTANT ABOUT THIS ASPECT, ALMOST EVERY DEVELOPMENT IN PRECISION DEVELOPMENT TO DATE MEANS IT COSTS MORE. OUR EMPHASIS IS MORE ON SOMETHING THAT DOESN'T COST MORE BUT IS HELPFUL.

SOT 2: PEOPLE SEND A HUNDRED TO $200 A YEAR TO GET A SIGNATURE. THEY WATCH THEIR OWN SIGNATURE AND IF THERE IS A CHANGE YEAR-TO-YEAR, THEY GO BACK TO GET A SIGNATURE TO SEE WHAT IT RELATES TO. IF IT'S CANCER, THEY CAN FIND A SPECIALIST AND SAY CAN YOU GIVE ME A DIFFERENT MEASUREMENT TO SEE IF THERE IS A DISEASE THERE.

SOT: IT DETECTS DISEASES EARLY. IF YOU RECALL IN THE EBOLA OUTBREAK, WHAT'S HAPPENING, PEOPLE WERE ALREADY SPREADING DISEASE BEFORE THEY HAD SYMPTOMS OR KNEW IT WAS EBOLA. SOMETHING LIKE THIS COULD INTERVENE SAY YOU ARE MEASURING HEALTHCARE WORKERS ALL THE TIME TO GET THEM AS SOON AS THEY SHOW SIGN OF EBOLA, THAT YOU WOULD TREAT OR ISOLATE THEM. THAT WOULD HAVE CHANGED THE OUTCOME OF THE DISEASE AT THAT TIME.

STEVE FILMER: THAT TECHNOLOGY HAS BEEN DEVELOPED IN ASU'S BIODESIGN INSTITUTE IN TEMPE. ‘HEALTH TELL’ IS THE COMPANY WORKING ON THE APPLICATIONS. THOSE APPLICATIONS INCLUDE HEALTH MONITORING, AND DEVELOPING NEW DRUGS TO STOP AND TREAT DISEASES.

TED SIMONS: SOUNDS LIKE A BRAVE NEW WORLD. THANK YOU STEVE, YOU CAN CATCH THE FULL EPISODE OF "CATALYST: SHAPING THE FUTURE" AT NINE TONIGHT HERE ON ARIZONA PBS.

TED SIMONS: THURSDAY ON ARIZONA HORIZON: HEAR FROM REPUBLICAN LEADERS ON THE RECENTLY COMPLETED LEGISLATIVE SESSION, AND WE'LL TALK TO THE NEW DIRECTOR OF THE ASU ART MUSEUM. THAT'S THURSDAY, ON ARIZONA HORIZON. IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO WATCH TONIGHT'S PROGRAM AGAIN, SEE WHAT WE HAVE HAD ON IN THE PAST, WHAT WE HAVE SCHEDULED FOR THE FUTURE, CHECK US OUT ONLINE, AZPBS.ORG/HORIZON. THAT'S IT FOR NOW. I'M TED SIMONS. THANKS SO MUCH FOR JOINING US. YOU HAVE A GREAT EVENING.

Steve Filmer: Executive Director, Catalyst
Stephen Johnston, Ph.D.: Director, Center for Innovations in Medicine
Phil Stafford, Ph.D.: Center for Innovations in Medicine

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