Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Environmental Health Perspectives


Volume 120, Issue 5

Inclusive Pages



Biological Markers--analysis; Blood Proteins--chemistry; Fetal Blood--chemistry


Background: Early diagnosis represents one of the best lines of defense in the fight against a wide array of human diseases. Umbilical cord blood (UCB) is one of the first easily available diagnostic biofluids and can inform about the health status of newborns. However, compared with adult blood, its diagnostic potential remains largely untapped.

Objectives: Our goal was to accelerate biomarker research on UCB by exploring its detectable protein content and providing a priority list of potential biomarkers based on known proteins involved in disease pathways.

Methods: We explored cord blood serum proteins by profiling a UCB pool of 12 neonates with different backgrounds using a combination of isoelectric focusing and liquid chromatography coupled with matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization tandem mass spectrometry (MALDI-MS/MS) and by comparing results with information contained in metabolic and disease databases available for adult blood.

Results: A total of 1,210 UCB proteins were identified with a protein-level false discovery rate of ~ 5% as estimated by naïve target-decoy and MAYU approaches, signifying a 6-fold increase in the number of UCB proteins described to date. Identified proteins correspond to 138 different metabolic and disease pathways and provide a platform of mechanistically linked biomarker candidates for tracking disruptions in cellular processes. Moreover, among the identified proteins, 38 were found to be approved biomarkers for adult blood.

Conclusions: The results of this study advance current knowledge of the human cord blood serum proteome. They showcase the potential of UCB as a diagnostic medium for assessing infant health by detection and identification of candidate biomarkers for known disease pathways using a global, nontargeted approach. These biomarkers may inform about mechanisms of exposure–disease relationships. Furthermore, biomarkers approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for screening in adult blood were detected in UCB and represent high-priority targets for immediate validation.


Reproduced with permission from Environmental Health Perspectives.

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