A team of researchers from Yale University have developed a test that can accurately measure the age of your cells and also predict the length of your lifespan.
For a few bucks, fortune tellers claim that they can predict how long you have left to live and the manner in which you will go. Now you don't need to go to a fortune teller. A pioneering blood test claims to be able to do just that - predicting approximately how many years you have left.
According to the Daily Mail, the scientists involved in the study sought to find a reliable way to calculate the age of people's cells, which differs from their chronological age, in order to determine the length of their lifespan fairly accurately.
The researchers from Yale University claimed that ther studies surpassed other research papers in the field in terms of accuracy, practicality, and ease of interpretation. Their claims were based on the fact that their test took into account factors that are measured in an annual physical.
Dr. Morgan Levine, lead author of the study and a pathologist at Yale, said that the next goal she had in mind was to examine the factors that trigger cell aging in order to offer solutions to patients in the form of diet and exercise regimens to lengthen their lifespans.
She said, "In young or middle aged people, everyone thinks that they are healthy and fine, but that's not always the case. This test could actually tell people their real risk, so they can monitor those factors before they become a problem."
While preceding studies attempted to look into the molecular structure of cells in order to assess their age, Levine decided to depart from this approach, which she herself had previously used, and looked at more readily-available measurements like blood glucose levels.
Levine wanted to test if the same goal of calculating cell age could be reached with relatively more macroscopic measurements. She explained, "Basically this is more of a physiological age measure, rather than a molecular age measure."
She continued, "It shows us the manifestation of all of these changes. I find that these are better predictors of life expectancy than the more molecular measures because they are actually capturing pieces of the aging process.
"They say there are seven pillars or hallmarks of aging. A lot of the previous studies are looking at just one of those pillars. This encompasses multiple hallmarks." In fact, the new blood test developed by her research team examines nine biomarkers.
To eliminate biomarkers that were not relevant to the purpose of their research, Levine and her team looked at 42 different measures that had been recorded in the NHANES (US National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys), which were studies that had followed thousands of Americans across several years.
The research team chose 10,000 people who had been studied between 1988 and 1994 and selected factors that had appeared to predict their risk of death. They then did the same with a set of 11,000 people between 1999 and 2010.
Once they had identified their factors, they employed an algorithm known as the 'elastic net model' that identified the strongest predictors of risk of death, narrowing down their pool to nine biomarkers that included globular protein levels and white blood cell count.
Speaking about the study, Levine said, "It worked really well. A lot of studies don't actually compare whether their measure is a better predictor of mortality compared to chronological age so we compared ours to others. We found this does predict better.
"I think the nice thing about the measures that go into this is they are usually measuring in a physical when you go to a doctor. A lot of people probably have their lab results for most of these. You could just input your data from your latest physical and get your read-out."
Levine is keen on taking her study to the next level by identifying concrete methods to indicate the impact of a person's lifestyle on aging. She would like to discover what factors accelerate aging and what factors could slow down the aging process.
In fact, her team is already studying the influence of socioeconomic factors, genetic factors, and lifestyle factors on differences in aging. Some of the preliminary findings of their studies indicate that exercising more, quitting smoking, and reducing BMI to a reasonable range can slow down aging.
Levine said, "You could actually try and guide people to improve based on this. You could give them a hypothetical ideal measure for how much they could improve based on lifestyle factors. With genetic tests like 23AndMe you're stuck with what you have, whereas all these measures are modifiable."
She explained that the diagnostic tool was quicker and less complicated than other tests. "The nice thing about this measure is that it's easier [to interpret and gather] than the more molecular measures, and it won't take us long to understand what is contributing to this aging."