blood test that can tell you how fast you are ageing
– and how long you will live – will become available commercially in the UK
later this year. The test measures vital structures on the tips of a person’s
chromosomes, named telomeres, which scientists believe are one of the most
accurate and important indicators of the speed at which a person ages.
Scientists behind the €500 (US$700) test said it will be possible to tell
whether a person’s “biological age” – as measured by the length of their
telomeres – is younger or older than their chronological age.
scientists already question the value of the test and ask whether there should
be stronger ethical controls over its use. Together with concerns about how
people will respond to a test for how “old” they truly are, some scientists
worry that telomere testing may be taken over by unscrupulous organisations
attempting to hawk unproven anti-ageing remedies and other frauds. The test
results might also be of interest to companies offering life insurance policies
or medical cover that depend on a person’s lifetime risk of becoming seriously
ill or dying prematurely.
Blackburn, of the University of California San Francisco, an Australian who was
awarded a Nobel Prize for discovering the significance of telomeres, said:
“Checking your telomere length is a bit like weighing yourself: you get this
single number which depends on a lot of factors. Telomere length gives a sense
of your underlying health. We see telomere shortening in diseases of ageing –
like heart disease and cancer.” ~ Independent, May
16; New Scientist,