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Science is nearing a psychic blood test that can accurately predict when you'll die

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Aug 23, 2019

Someone get John Anderton on the phone! A Minority Report-esque scientific breakthrough is on the way! There may come a time in the near future when a sample of your blood will be able to predict how much longer you have to live on this planet.

According to a new report published via Nature Communications, it is possible to anticipate "longer-term mortality risk" based on data collected from over 44,000 test subjects between the ages of 18-109. With the subjects' respective healths monitored for up to 16 years, the team helmed by Joris Deelen (postdoctoral researcher at the Max Planck Institute for the Biology of Aging) and P. Eline Slagboom (head of molecular epidemiology at Leiden University Medical Center) were able to identity 14 specific, body-regulating markers (dubbed "metabolites") like amino acids, which, along with a person's sex, help ascertain how likely it is that death will occur within 5-10 years.

Whittled down from a list of 226, the 14 special metabolites that help paint a medical picture of someone's health prospects were discovered by comparing the blood samples of those who died during the study to those who did not. Overall, the endeavor was 80 percent accurate in its mortality predictions.

blood samples

Credit: Peter Kovalev\TASS via Getty Images

“We want to tackle the vulnerability of people’s health that is hidden and that doctors cannot see from the outside,” Slagboom told Time. “I am still surprised by the fact that in a group of people you can take one blood sample at one point of time in their life, and that would say anything meaningful about their five- to 10-year mortality risk.”

With that said, this sort of "psychic" blood test isn't ready for practical use by everyday doctors just yet, although the study's findings do offer up a solid blueprint for life-saving applications in the future (e.g. dosage and treatment decisions). Indeed, researchers at Leiden are already using it to determine whether doctors can anticipate complications with hip fracture patients post-surgery. Elsewhere, there's an inquiry into whether the test can forecast dementia in situations of kidney failure.

“We see this as a foundation,” added Slagboom. “We do not see this test as an endpoint.”

If you're an avid reader, you may be reminded of Machine of Death, an anthology of stories about a fictional device that tells people how they will die just by reading a sample of their blood. The first collection of tales was published in 2010, with a second book, This Is How You Die, released in 2013.

Now if we could just develop a PreCrime-inspired system for the fabrication of wooden balls engraved with our respective death sentences ...

This Is How You Die front cover

Credit: Grand Central Publishing


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