Healthy living

Test tells if you are ageing too fast

Test to tell if you are ageing too fast Measures DNA to determine biological age

A blood test which can help predict how long you will live is expected to go on sale in the UK later this year.

The £435 test works by measuring the length of a person's telomeres, stretches of DNA located at the end of chromosomes. Shorter telomeres in people have been linked to - among others - a greater risk of heart disease, infectious diseases and shorter lifespans.

When the body's cells divide, telomeres get shorter until they eventually become worn away and unable to protect the chromosome, and the cell dies.

Because of this, telomere length is thought to be an accurate indicator of biological, rather than chronological ageing.

Although it cannot predict exactly how many years and months someone will have left to live, the scientists behind the test say it can give an accurate indication of the speed at which a person is ageing.

Someone with shorter than average telomeres for their chronological age may use the results of the test to adopt a healthier lifestyle, for example.

However the downside of all this is that insurance companies may use test results to increase premiums or, in some cases, refuse life insurance cover altogether.

"Knowing whether our telomeres are a normal length or not for a given chronological age will give us an indication of our health status and of our physiological 'age' even before diseases appear," said Dr Maria Blasco of the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre, whose research provided the basis for the blood test.

The company behind the test - Life Length - is currently in negotiations to market and sell the blood test throughout Europe.

This article was published on Mon 16 May 2011

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