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Scientists uncover a "death test"

Posting in Healthcare

A team of Finnish medical researchers has developed what could be a “death test” that determines one’s mortality within the next 5 years, independent of a diagnosis.

The findings were published in the peer-reviewed medical journal PLOS Medicine yesterday, detailing the outcome of two experiments in Estonia and Finland, which recruited seemingly health people for a series of blood tests. Many had undiagnosed terminal health problems, and their contributions could lead to better screenings.

In this study, scientists from Finish institutions and universities monitored two populations of patients in Estonia and Finland for nearly a decade, and came to the conclusion that a combination of four biomarkers could determine ill health. There were 9,842 participants in Estonia and 7,503 in Finland. The biomarkers that were used in the study were indicators of acute cancer, heart, and nonvascular health problems.

The four biomarkers "were predictive of death from cancer and nonvascular causes in addition to cardiovascular mortality, and may therefore indicate novel relationships between systemic biomarkers and diverse morbidities,” the study says. “Further investigations are required to clarify the utility of these circulating biomarkers for guiding screening and targeted prevention based on the molecular profile of an individual.”

The study was funded by grants from the European Commission, Estonia, Finland, and various European non-profit foundations. Several of the researchers are shareholders of Brainshake Ltd., a company that offers metabolite profiling – a service that scans for the biomarkers of diseases. Other authors aren’t shareholders. 

The big takeaway here is that individualized medicine is becoming more evidence-based, and blood tests could become better predictors of our short-term risk of death. Other researchers have recently found early indicators of diabetes and chronic depression. Another new test can detect cancer in minutes.

— By on February 26, 2014, 5:26 PM PST

David Worthington

Contributing Editor

David Worthington has written for BetaNews, eWeek, PC World, Technologizer and ZDNet. Formerly, he was a senior editor at SD Times. He holds a business degree from Temple University. He is based in New York. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure