Researchers have developed a blood test that can predict your chances of killing within the next few years.
Predicting your chances of dying may sound like a morbid undertaking, as if you are trying to find a free date in a Grim Reaper dance diary, but this knowledge can potentially be used to postpone the fateful curtain call by helping people to make better lifestyle choices and guide the treatments they receive.
Researchers led by the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Aging in Germany found 14 blood biomarkers that are independently associated with death in people of all ages, reported in the journal Nature Communications yesterday.
Armed with this knowledge, they then made predictions about a person's risk of death within the next five to ten years. Their predictions turned out to be far more accurate than those made by conventional methods, such as measuring blood pressure and cholesterol.
"As a researcher on aging, we are anxious to determine the biological age. The calendar age just doesn't say much about the general state of health of the elderly: one 70-year-old is healthy, while another can already be afflicted with three diseases," says study director Professor Eline Slagboom in a statement.
"We now have a set of biomarkers that can help identify vulnerable elderly people who could later be treated."
The team studied the metabolic biomarkers found in the blood of 44,000 people between 1
"Biomarkers give us important insights into what is happening in health and disease," commented Dr. Amanda Heslegrave, a researcher at University College London's Dementia Research Institute, who was not directly involved in the study.
"In this new study, a number of markers are validated and implicated in long-term mortality and the authors suggest that more may be, which would be a valuable exercise."
However, as the researchers themselves admit, Dr. Heslegrave added that further work must be done before this research has real practical uses. First, the study looked mainly at Europeans, so it is unclear how definitely the same results could apply to other ethnic groups.
"While this study shows this type of profiling can be useful, they point out that it would need further work to develop an individual-level score that would be useful in real-life situations," Dr. Heslegrave con
"So it is an exciting step, but it's not clear yet. "