Would you take this test?

May 24, 2011 —

A new blood test that will go on sale to the public in Britain later this year can show how fast someone is ageing, giving insights on how long the person may live.

The question is: Would you want to know that about yourself?

When it comes to one's lifespan, how much information is too much?

The United Kingdom’s Independent newspaper reports that the “controversial test measures vital structures on the tips of a person’s chromosomes, called telomeres, which scientists believe are one of the most important and accurate indicators of the speed at which a person is ageing.” Every time a cell divides, its telomeres get shorter. The more cells have divided, the more one’s body has aged – so short telomeres suggest advanced age.

The test raises all sorts of questions: How will people react knowing how “old” they really are? Who will have access to the information? Would medical insurance companies require the test to grant or deny health care coverage? Will the test spark fake remedies to lengthen one’s telomeres or true, viable therapies that enhance health?

I agree with Washington Post columnist Jennifer LaRue Huget, who in her weekly “Checkup” blog recently vowed, “I can tell you with absolute certainty that I want nothing to do with telomere testing… I don’t want to know how long my telomeres are or, by extension, how many years I might live. That seems like tempting fate.”

Huget goes on to ask: “How about you? Are you tempted to know how long your telomeres are? And what would you do if you knew how long you’re likely to live?”

What do you think?


Endlessly curious and easily entertained, Barb Dietrich Boose loves being a member of the friendly, fascinating DMU community and its creative communications team. The University's publications director and DMU Magazine editor, Barb is always on the hunt for story ideas, good books and new recipes to try out on her family, such as her surprisingly tasty pork-and-bean bars.

Comments