A new blood test soon to be launched in the United Kingdom claims to be able to tell you how long you are going to live. The £435 ($700) test measures the length of a person's telomeres - the inventor claims this is associated with longevity. Telomeres are DNA sections that cover the end of chromosomes, effectively protecting them from damage and loss of cell function - which are said to be associated with aging.
According to the makers Life Length, a Spanish company, their new death test really can tell you how long you have got.
Inventor, Maria Blasco, head of telomeres research at the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre, Madrid, said:
"Knowing whether our telomeres are a normal length or not for a given chronological age will give us an indication of our health status and of our physiological 'age' even before diseases appear."
Blasco claims this new test is very precise. It can detect tiny differences in telomere length. The technique is fast and simple, and can analyze several samples simultaneously.
Those wanting to do the test will have to go to their doctor so that their blood can be drawn. The blood sample is then sent to a lab. The makers of the test say results come back within a month. However, in urgent cases the company says it can do a 1-week turnaround.
Geneticists say that although it is true that telomere length is linked to the age of the person, the test cannot precisely tell you how much time you have got left. A person with really short telomeres is not necessarily at death's door.
However, it may give people a general indication of how fast they are aging. Especially if they take a test today, and then another one in five years' time and compare the two.
The test might encourage some people to adopt healthier lifestyles. However, many experts say that you do not need a blood test to necessarily tell you that.
A range of different factors decide how long we are likely to live, and telomere length is just one of them. Longevity is influenced by your genes, lifestyle and environment. All the test will do is give you some information on the genetics - it cannot really predict how long you are going to live, experts say.
Research into telomere length and lifespan has come up with some pointers, but virtually all scientists say that much more research is needed.
A test that could gather ALL the data, such as telomere length, race, lifestyle, geographic origin, diet, physical activity, hours slept each night, etc. would be much more useful.
Do we really want to know?Some people wonder what good might come with an accurate test telling you when you are going to die. Could this be a slippery slope towards another set of life insurance premium costs - with insurance companies demanding to know what your test results were before giving you a quote?
What if somebody discovers that he/she is predicted to die within the next five years? Will they empty out their life savings accounts and go on some adventure tour, sell their house and go around the world?
Dr. Blasco said the test is useful. People have the opportunity of being warned so that they can alter their lifestyles in time.
A telomere is an area of repetitive DNA sequence at the end of a chromosome. It prevents the tip of the chromosome from deterioration and fusing with other chromosomes.
Written by Christian Nordqvist