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The Death Test

Sometimes I get pulled into discussions I would prefer not to have.  Most times it’s a result of some stuff on the internet that has been designed to “engage” the audience in discussion.

There never seems to be a lack of people ready to volunteer their opinion on things they have no knowledge about.  A friend once told me the problem with society today is there is no shame.

I couldn’t agree more.  There is no lack of people ready to pontificate on telomeres, telomerase, and telomere biology who can barely say the words!

All kinds of moral, ethical and social machinations come out of these apparently clairvoyant people.

So it is with telomere testing.  Some of my ire is because I have addressed all this before in “Why telomeres are not the next cholesterol” and “Telomere Turf Wars, the Blasco Fiasco”.  Perhaps it’s because I did not ask for people to weigh in on the subject or perhaps not that many people read these blogs, which were highly informational.

Just this past week a slew of social networking and blog type posts claimed that short telomere testing can be used to predict the how’s, when’s and where’s of one’s mortality.

At this moment that is absolute nonsense and without scientific foundation.

Claiming that telomere testing is in a stage where it can predict the time of death or even that death is impending is just plain flat out wrong.  Spinning one’s wheels about whether the government and insurance companies will use it against us is even worse.

There is simply nowhere near enough data about who will die of what and when for any type of telomere test to be that predictive.  Yet.

That day is coming and as telomere testing becomes more common both the Mean Telomere Test (MTL) and the short telomere test that Dr Blasco pioneered will be able to help predict many of those things.

But human beings have a way of confounding even the best scientific prognostications.

After all, you can still be hit by a bus!

So once again, here is my stance.

Mean Telomere Testing is most useful in larger studies looking at population trends including heart disease, diabetes, cancer and ultimately the risk of dying.  But it is not very good for individual prognostics.

Short telomere testing is THE way to go to look at how you are personally treating your telomeres over time, especially if you are aggressively intervening on their behalf with TA-65.

But as of this moment it is still in the “gearing up” stage, meaning it is not feasible for most of us to get short telomere testing just yet.

I have contacted Dr Blasco’s company Lifelength to see what is actually involved and if they are ready.  After all, shipping blood from the US to Spain may not be very feasible and at this moment there are no labs in America that do this test.

I will continue to keep you posted in rational scientific fashion.  I am very optimistic about the utility of short telomere testing and I am certain that with the speed that the field of telomere biology is moving much of the stuff that is nonsense today will have real application sooner than later. But at this very moment all that pontification is a waste.

Like it or not, in today’s gotta-know-it-now, here-today-forgotten-tomorrow “information-” based society we’ll just have to wait a bit longer for the application of these tests.

Dr Dave

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