Skip to content

Four ways the map of the human proteome is paying off

A closeup image of the SLC25A20 protein, one of the three proteins that were recently discovered as possible biomarkers for ALS. (Image:

When the Human Protein Atlas was unveiled in November, the worldwide media focused on the news that the testicles have the most proteins in the human body. But for researchers seeking treatments for deadly diseases, the Atlas offers a whole lot more.

The extensive database offers a tool for researchers worldwide in the hunt for biomarkers of major diseases. And KTH is no exception, given that it is one of the three partner universities comprising the Human Protein Atlas project.

So what are biomarkers? They’re a little like the warning lights on your car’s dashboard. They indicate a problem, and how to fix it. Their presence in the tissues, cells or fluids are indicators of a problem, much the same way blood cholesterol indicates you might be at risk of heart disease.

Specific proteins are being linked to diseases such as breast cancer and ALS, thanks to research at KTH Science for Life Laboratory. By understanding these proteins, we can learn of how diseases start, how they progress and how they can be stopped.

Here are four ways the Human Protein Atlas is already paying off:


In what is believed to be the most extensive plasma profiling study conducted on people with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), researchers have identified three possible proteins as biomarkers for the deadly disease.

Potential for ALS treatment found in three proteins 


Malaria can be lethal or mild, and up to now there is no accurate way to know whether a stricken child is suffering a lethal variant of the mosquito-borne parasite. But malaria experts are excited about the discovery of biomarkers that could make it possible to know early on which patients need extra care. The researchers identified specific proteins that appear in the blood plasma of children with severe malaria syndromes. Testing for these biomarkers may soon begin in Nigeria.

Discovery could help prevent malaria deaths 

Muscular Dystrophy

Duchenne muscular dystrophy results from a lack, or impaired function, of the protein dystrophin, a major component of muscles. Working with an international research team, KTH researchers have discovered how to create a variant of dystrophin that can mitigate muscle atrophy. This could in turn lead to the development of new therapies for muscular dystrophy.

New hope in fight against muscular dystrophy 


Researchers found decreased levels of the protein CNDP1 in the plasma of patients suffering from prostate cancer – and the levels were distinctly different in patients with diagnosed lymph node metastasis. This refined understanding of CNDP1 may contribute to an alternative way to detect prostate cancer and lymph node status.

Analysis of plasma from prostate cancer patients links decreased carnosine dipeptidase 1 levels to lymph node metastasis 

David Callahan

Watch this video about the Human Protein Atlas



David Callahan is editor for international news and media at KTH Royal Institute of Technology.