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Genomic Analysis Company Adds Body Composition Profiles

Body composition images

Body composition images viewed on a computer screen (AMRA AB)

9 January 2018. A company analyzing genomics and microbiome factors to extend human life spans is adding an evaluation of body composition to its tool kit. Human Longevity Inc. in San Diego is offering fat and muscle composition profiling, provided by Advanced MR Analytics or AMRA, in Linköping, Sweden, as part of HLI’s personalized medicine platform.

HLI, founded by genomics pioneer J. Craig Venter, provides whole genome analysis, but combines the results of that analysis with a comprehensive index of physical traits to offer personalized insights into an individual’s health that the company says can lead to better health planning and more treatment options for extending a person’s lifetime. The company’s flagship product is called Health Nucleus that offers a combination of whole genome sequencing, with analysis of gut microorganisms in the microbiome, and other health tests, such as CT scans or echocardiograms, as needed for an individual’s medical profile.

Under the agreement, AMRA is adding its main service, an analysis of a body’s fat and muscle composition to Health Nucleus. The analysis is derived from magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, scans of the whole body, which AMRA says takes about 6 minutes. The scans look particularly at fat concentrations in the abdominal cavity, under the skin, in the liver, and the limbs. The scans also provide images of muscle volumes in the limbs and the body overall. The technology, says the company, enables the calculation of fat and muscle content from the images.

Up to now, AMRA offered its body composition profiles for researchers and pharmaceutical companies in clinical trials. Because the scans take a few minutes, the company says they can be repeated at different intervals to track an individual’s progress in dealing with conditions such as obesity and metabolic syndrome disorders: heart disease, cancer, stroke, liver disease, and diabetes.

The company is a spin-off enterprise from Linköping University, founded in 2010 by Olof Dahlqvist Leinhard, a medical school lecturer, and Magnus Borga, a professor of biomedical engineering. Leinhard is AMRA’s chief scientist, while Borga serves as the company’s vice-president for imaging.

The founders say they were motivated in part by the 2004 documentary film Super Size Me, where Morgan Spurlock eats nothing but fast food for a month. Leinhard, Borga, and colleagues developed their MRI and analytical techniques, with an early test asking volunteers to eat 2 fast food meals a day and limit their exercise. The researchers then measured their fat and muscle content with MRI scans.

Venter in a joint statement says HLI pilot tested AMRA’s body composition profiles for more than a year. AMRA’s CEO Tommy Johansson adds, “Through our partnership with HLI, individuals will now be able to access our technology for the first time outside of medical research.”

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