Scientists from Finland and Estonia have identified four biomarkers that can help identify people at high risk of dying from any disease within five years. The researchers were “astonished” to discover that a simple blood test, so-called “Death test”, could predict if a person was likely to die – even if they were not ill, reports The Telegraph.
The team screened over 17,000 blood samples taken from generally healthy participants for more than a hundred different biomolecules. Then for five year they monitored the volunteers’ health.
Of the 17,000 participants, 684 died during that period from a range of illnesses, including cancer and heart disease. The scientists found that all of the deceased had similar levels of four biomarkers – albumin; alpha-1-acid glycoprotein; citrate, and a similar size of very-low-density lipoprotein particles, which are linked to liver and kidney function, inflammation and infection, energy metabolism and vascular health.
Of these, albumin was the only one previously linked with mortality. All these molecules are normally present in everyone’s blood, but it is the amount of these molecules that was shown to be important.
“It was a pretty amazing result,” said research professor Markus Perola of the Institute for Health and Welfare, Finland. “First of all we didn’t really believe it. It was astonishing that these biomarkers appeared to actually predict mortality independent of disease.”
“These were all apparently healthy people but to our surprise it appears these biomarkers show an undetected frailty which people did not know they had.”
A biomarker is a biological molecule found in blood, body fluids, or tissues that may signal an abnormal process, a condition, or a disease. The level of a particular biomarker may indicate a patient’s risk of disease, or likely response to a treatment. For example, cholesterol levels are measured to assess the risk of heart disease.
“What is especially interesting is that these biomarkers reflect the risk for dying from very different types of diseases such as heart disease or cancer. They seem to be signs of a general frailty in the body,” said Dr. Johannes Kettunen of the Institute for Molecular Medicine in Finland.
A group of Estonian researched initial found the results after testing nearly 10,000 people, but were so astonished by the results they asked the Finnish scientists to try to replicate their findings — they had the same results and were just as stunned.
“If the findings are replicated then this test is surely something we will see becoming widespread,” said Perola.
“We believe that in the future these measures can be used to identify people who appear healthy but in fact have serious underlying illnesses and guide them to proper treatment,” added Kettunen.
The scientists are now looking to study whether some kind of connecting factor between these biomarkers can be identified.
“We believe that in the future these measures can be used to identify people who appear healthy but in fact have serious underlying illnesses and guide them to proper treatment. More studies are, however, needed before these findings can be implemented in clinical practice.”