Reporting Paula Ebben
BOSTON (CBS) – If you could find out how much longer you were going to live, would you want to find out?
A hint of that information might soon be available in a blood test. It’s a concept that raises some complicated issues.
Dr. Mark Friedman, a pathologist, said this test attempts to measure your biological age, which is only loosely correlated to chronological age.
The text examines the length of telomeres. These are the tips at the end of chromosomes. Scientists believe shorter telomeres indicate a faster rate of aging.
Dr. Friedman explained, “The longer the telomere, the longer you might live. As you age they shorten and that might predict your aging process, and again, that might have some correlation with how long you are going to live.”
WBZ-TV’s Paula Ebben reports.
The test was developed by Telomone Health, Inc. Although there is no exact formula yet that can predict how much time you really have left, the test’s developers say it can still provide a window on your health.
Dr. Calvin Harley, PH.D, explained “Very short telomeres are what are behind a lot of different age related diseases.”
Doctors say shortened telomeres may put you at a higher risk of cancer and heart disease.
Dr. Friedman said right now, there is not much they do with this information, however.
“There’s really no medication or treatment or anything that you can do about it at this point, other than do some of the things like improve lifestyle,” said Dr. Friedman.
There’s also the question of how a patient would handle potentially devastating news. One man said he would become too obsessive about the date, while a woman remarked she just tries to live each day to the fullest.
There’s also a concern that if insurance companies obtain access to this information, they might raise premiums or deny coverage.
Steven Weisbart of the Insurance Information Institute said that is not an issue.
He added, “We already have a lot of information that’s pretty easy to get at, and pretty reliable in predicting how long a group of people with similar characteristics might live. Blood pressure, diabetes.”
The test is expected to be available later this year, and you will have to request it from your physician. It will cost at several hundred dollars.