It’s a head-turning headline: “One little drop of your blood may someday predict how long you’ll live.” Until it comes true, know that science is making surprising progress toward gauging our risk of disease and early death.
Dr. David Brown lays out the facts quite lucidly in the Washington Post. A host of biomarkers in the blood, including gene activity, can indicate your biological age, disease risk, and expected longevity.
The key is that blood tests are revealing more information than ever. “The result is a storehouse of information on millions of people, most of it available at the prick of a hypodermic needle,” writes Brown. “When the health and longevity of those people are correlated with the readings of their biomarkers, it becomes possible to find biomarker profiles that predict risk of future disease or early death.”
Brown writes about a study of long-lived people whose records were sorted into 26 clusters based on data from 19 blood tests. Researchers identified an average “reference” cluster as well as a cluster of healthier-than-average people whose biological ages seemed younger than their chronological ages.
Researchers applied the biomarkers to records of individuals tracked in the Framingham Heart study, and the results held up. Other scientists have correlated longevity to the activity of certain genes in white blood cells. DNA methylation (the attachment of certain atoms to DNA strands) occurs in patterns that constitute even more disease and longevity biomarkers.
Such biomarker profiling could be useful in drug development, Brown writes. “The more obvious use, however, is in the routine doctor visit, where it could provide patients a peek at what may lie ahead and a chance, Ebenezer Scroogelike, to alter their fates…. But as a practical matter, we don’t need to wait for hemo-augury to show up at our doctor’s office. We already know what to do to make ourselves healthier.”
And we at iSpecimen know what to do to support this promising research. As this work proceeds, we’ll continue to provide researchers with a broad range of biofluid specimens, from both healthy patients and those with medical conditions, along with a wealth of de-identified patient- and specimen-level data. They’ll get the specimens they need from the patients they want.