If you've been paying any attention to social media in the last decade, you've probably seen the Death Clock. A simple online quiz that gives you a pseudo-heads up on when you're likely to kick the bucket, but science can't have that sort of malarkey going on.
Finnish and Estonian scientists have been working on a real life blood test that might actually be able to warn you of impending doom. Using just four of the original 106 bio-markers they were studying, the researchers believe they can predict the possibility of a life threatening disease within five years. Bio-markers, consisting of lipids, proteins and metabolites that circulate in your blood, can be measured with a simple blood test.
The results of a blood test on a seemingly healthy person could reveal the potential for diseases such as those associated with the cardiovascular system and even some cancers. The bio-markers in question – alpha-1-acid glycoprotein, albumin, low-density lipoprotein and citrate – are measured in healthy people against the expected norms.
The study, published the PLOS Medicine journal, details how the team narrowed down their search. First the blood of nearly 10,000 Estonian men and women from the ages of 19-101 was drawn and tested. Over the course of the next five years, just over 500 of the randomly chosen subjects died. The presence of the main four markers was overwhelmingly common among the dead, while far less common among the living.
To confirm their findings researchers then tested a different random group of people, this time in Finland. Roughly 8.000 men and women, from the ages of 24-74 were tested and scientists were surprised to find the four bio-markers equally predictive of death.
Research professor Markus Perola of the Institute for Health and Welfare in Finland expressed his surprise to The Telegraph,
“It was a pretty amazing result. First we really didn’t believe it. It was astonishing that these bio-markers appeared to actually predict mortality independent of disease,” he said, adding “these were all apparently healthy people but to our surprise it appears these bio-markers show an undetected frailty which people did not know they had.”
While some feel there may be an ethical question as to whether or not a person who will likely die in the next five years might want to even know, researchers are hopeful that further research could result in a significant jump on a coming illness, even allowing earlier treatment. Flagging bio-markers could well result in treatment before the onset of symptoms, which in many cases appear too late.
The question remains, If you were going to suffer a life threatening illness would you want to know?