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Monday May 23, 16:12

A blood test to identify premature aging?

The test measures the patient's biological age by measuring the telomeres (white)
The test measures the patient's biological age by measuring the telomeres (white)

A Spanish company arouses great interest in bringing to market a test related to the ultimate questions: our life expectancy. The technique, based on the measurement of telomeres, the caps of DNA at the tips of chromosomes, indicates whether the patient's body ages prematurely.

The blood test is based on the principle that telomeres shorten as cells of the body are renewed. After a moment, these caps become so short that the cell can not replicate: it is left to deteriorate and then die. This is cellular aging. The test proposed by Life Length determines whether the patient has shorter telomeres than normal at his age, which would lead to accelerated aging.

At 50, you can have a body that is 57 or vice versa ...

Sold 500 euros, the test requires a simple blood test. It can give the patient a "biological age", ie, the age of the organism. It may be less than chronological age (the one written on our identity cards) if you have a healthy lifestyle and a good genetic heritage. It may be higher if the patient is stressed, smokes, drinks, does little exercise...

Life Length is not the only company to offer this type of test. SpectraCell Laboratories, based in Houston, United States, already offers a test since 2009 for 290 dollars. California-telomer Health also provides a test launch at $200 by the end of the year, according to The New York Times. Their measurement technique differs, however, Length of Life claims greater accuracy.

Experts skeptical

Many experts who share their skepticism about such tests, for several reasons. On the one hand the relevance of the method to measure telomeres - which remains controversial. While several studies have established a link between short telomeres and a lifetime of less than average, all work on the subject have failed to confirm the hypothesis.

The other question is ethical. One can for example imagine that insurance companies take this opportunity to establish different rates depending on the results obtained in this type of testing. From a philosophical point of view, it could also disrupt our way of looking at life, once the ultimate uncertainty lifted, says in The Independent Colin Blakemore, PhD in neuroscience at Oxford. He said the current scientific knowledge is not sufficient to allow this kind of "prediction" that can have a significant impact on people's lives.

"We do not pretend to tell people how long they have left to live," insists Stephen Matlin. "This test provides a rather good indicator of the general health of the patient," he pleads. Critics of the project argue that a doctor did not need a DNA test to determine what recommendations to make to a patient. "This is an optional test for those who want to have very precise information," he replies.

In all cases, this new niche will certainly benefit companies selling anti-aging remedies...


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