DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – If you could look into the future, would you? When it comes to knowing one’s life expectancy, it turns out many people would rather smash their crystal balls.
“I think it would increase the worry and anxiety about when I’m going to die,” said Dallas resident, Errol Sykes. “When it’s my time, it’s my time.”
A simple blood test is now available that measures how quickly a person is aging. By shipping a blood sample to a company in Spain called Life Length, people dying to know can find out if they’re dying faster than others.
Dr. Jerry Shay is vice chairman of cell biology at UT Southwestern Medical Center and is a consultant for Life Length.
“The hope is, by knowing your telomere length accurately, we may in the future be able to manipulate this and maybe do some cell and tissue engineering to replace those tissues or organs that are failing,” Shay said.
Telomeres are found on the end of chromosomes. Scientists believe the shorter a person’s telomeres are, the faster he or she aging.
Shay said the test won’t tell people when they’re going to die, but it can give them a better sense of life expectancy.
For example, a 40-year-old male may have results that show he has the telomeres of a 30-year-old. The results could also show that same 40-year-old male possesses the telomeres of a 50 or 55-year-old.
Dr. Paul Worrell of Dallas worries that negative results could send many people into an emotional tailspin.
“Some people have the desire to go see fortune tellers,” Worrell said. “I personally have concern that if I knew I was going to die, it might take away from my quality of life that I have now.”
Both doctors agree that the test may result in abuse by health and life insurance companies, which they fear could use the results to deny or gouge people for coverage.