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New model more accurately predicts life expectancy

21.06.2021 - 14:26
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 Mynd: Bragi Valgeirsson - RÚV
Scientists at Iceland’s deCODE genetics have developed a new model using blood proteins to predict how long people have left to live.

The new model is proving much more accurate than previous ones based on analysis of the usual risk factors. The research is covered in the Communications Biology journal.

Analysing some 5,000 proteins from people’s blood allows a window into their expected lifespan, and could be used to target potential problems and extend lives, and also to assess how effective ongoing treatments are. Research on 23,000 blood samples accurately predicted the five percent of 60- to 80-year-olds with an 88 percent chance of dying within ten years, and also the five percent with just a one percent chance of death within ten years. 

Kári Stefánsson, founder and CEO of deCODE genetics says: 
“It predicts how long is left of people’s lives without doing anything at all about the situation they are in. It is not supposed to be a crystal ball. We aren’t going into competition with the nation’s foretune-tellers. Far from it. We are trying to understand what information can be obtained from meaasuring 5,000 proteins from the blood of a very large group of people.”

While hailing the benefits of the model, Kári admits he has some personal misgivings: “From my point-of-view, this looks a bit worrying. It’s a little bit Orwellian to be able to model how long people are likely to live. I have no interest in having this analysed myself!” Why? “Because I don’t want to need to change my lifestyle much!”

On a more serious note, however, he says: “Always when we see weaknesses in people, whether that’s changed sugar tolerance, higher blood pressure, higher cholesterol, and so forth, we hope to be able to do something about it. In this instance, we have a much broader scope to search for weaknesses and I hope that we, or that the healthcare service, can succeed in finding some methods to take it all on board.”

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Alexander Elliott
Fréttastofa RÚV