Blood Test to Predict Life Expectancy
Scientists have developed a blood test that can potentially reveal how long a person has left to live.
The blood test draws on nine biological characteristics to calculate a person’s age, based on how well their body is functioning rather than how long they have been alive, which has important implications for their risk of death and disease.
To create the blood test, researchers at Yale University looked at over 40 biological characteristics or ‘biomarkers’, such as white blood cell count, glucose and albumin levels, that were recorded for people who took part in two large studies as part of US health and nutrition surveys.
They used information from over 20,000 people in the studies to firstly identify the biomarkers that most strongly predicted life expectancy, and then develop and apply a test that measured nine of these.
The test results were used to calculate what the scientists call a ‘phenotypic age’, which reflects the biological rather than chronological age of a person’s body, and indicates whether it is ageing faster than average.
The researchers found that people with increased phenotypic age were at higher risk of disease and early death than those whose bodies were ageing at a slower pace.
Importantly, the test was able to pick up reduced life expectancy in apparently healthy, disease-free people, which may have been missed using traditional health assessments.
The authors believe their test is more useful than routine GP health measurements, such blood pressure checks, which only highlight health problems within strict thresholds and could miss the scale of risk that this test picks up by analysing a combination of specific biomarkers.
Study author Morgan Levine, a pathologist at Yale, explained: “The biggest advantage of this is now being able to say someone’s at high risk, and that they should come in regularly so you can make sure they’re not developing this or that disease. It’ll show you how can you reduce their risk because you can plug all the numbers in and see how the risk drops if they bring their glucose down, for example.”
By allowing doctors see what is contributing most to a person’s rate of ageing and suggest lifestyle changes that might reduce it, this test has the potential to play an important role in preventive strategies and interventions to promote healthy ageing.
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