Researchers claim they have pinpointed four biological molecules that would help identify people at high-risk of dying from any disease within the next five years. That means one day, a simple blood test could tell you if death is near. Yikes.
To be clear -- since people have been calling this a “death test” -- the researchers have only found a correlation between these biomarkers for mortality and bad health. Causes have not been identified, so we’re nowhere near a simple blood test for death. But that the same four biomarkers are linked to the risk of death from a variety of disparate diseases suggests that there’s an underlying mechanism taking place. Perhaps they share origins and early signs that we just never knew about.
The team, led by Estonian and Finnish researchers, analyzed over a hundred biomarkers (lipids, proteins, metabolites) circulating in blood samples from 9,842 randomly selected people in Estonia. Of them, 508 have died during a five-year follow-up period.
They looked for any links between the different biomarkers and short-term risk of dying. They found that specific levels of four biomarkers appear to be common in the people who died. These predictors, if you’re curious, are: plasma albumin, alpha-1-acid glycoprotein, very-low-density lipoprotein particle size, and citrate. All these molecules are normally found in everybody’s blood, so the key here is the amount.
The researchers repeated the study with 7,503 people in Finland. Of those participants, there were 176 deaths during the five-year follow-up. They got similar results: Four biomarkers predicted the risk of “all-cause mortality” from cardiovascular disease, as well as death from cancer and other nonvascular diseases.
“What is especially interesting is that these biomarkers reflect the risk for dying from very different types of diseases such as heart disease or cancer. They seem to be signs of a general frailty in the body,” study coauthor Johannes Kettunen from University of Helsinki says in a press release.
The measures, according to the study, were independent of risk factors like age, smoking, drinking, obesity, blood pressure, and cholesterol. Nor did the results change when only healthy persons were examined. The researchers are now looking for some connecting factor between these biomarkers.
So, would you want to know? I guess it partly depends on whether there’s anything I could to do to prevent or stall it.
The work was published in PLOS Medicine last week.