Medical Significance of the Plasma Proteome

The proteins found in human plasma perform many important functions in the body. Having too much or too little of these proteins can thus cause disease directly, or reveal its presence.

Diagnostic Information from the Plasma Proteome

Sensitive tests (typically immunoassays) have been developed to measure proteins in plasma as indicators of disease. More than $1billion is spent on these tests annually.

Despite decades of research, only a handful of proteins in plasma are measured routinely for diagnostic purposes. These include:
- Cardiac proteins (troponins, myoglobin, creatine kinase) as indicators of heart attack
- Insulin, for management of diabetes
- Liver enzymes (alanine or aspartate transaminases) as indicators of drug toxicity
- Coagulation factors for management of clotting disorders

About 150 proteins in plasma are measured by some laboratory for diagnosis of less common diseases.

The Plasma Proteome as a Source of Therapeutic Products

Over 22 million liters of human plasma are used worldwide by plasma fractionators each year to generate human therapeutic proteins administered to more than 1 million people1.

The major products prepared, in terms of amount, are human serum albumin and intravenous immunoglobulin, of which, respectively, approximately 50,000 kg and 25,000 kg are distributed in the US each year by six major manufacturers2.

Other therapeutic products made from plasma1 for human use are:
  • Alpha1 Protease Inhibitor (treatment for emphysema caused by genetic deficiency)
  • Factor VIII concentrate (prophylaxis and treatment of hemophilia A bleeding episodes and von Willebrand disease),
  • Anti-Inhibitor Coagulant Complex (treatment of bleeding episodes in presence of Factor VIII inhibitor),
  • Anti-Thrombin III (prevention of clotting and thromboembolism associated with liver disease and anti-thrombin III deficiency),
  • Factor IX Complex (prophylaxis and treatment of hemophilia B bleeding episodes and other bleeding disorders),
  • Factor XIII (prophylaxis and treatment of bleeding episodes due to Factor XIII deficiency),
  • Fibrin Sealant (helps to heal wounds during and following surgery), and
  • A series of immune globulin products (e.g., hepatitis B, chicken pox, measles, rabies, tetanus, vaccinia, hepatitis A and cytomegalovirus).
  Website of the Plasma Protein Therapeutics Association, July, 2002.

Georgetown Economic Services. Monthly Industry Aggregation Data. July 2002 ( describes Georgetown Economic Services).