Researchers have pinpointed 14 molecules in blood independently associated with dying from any cause. A score based on the molecules was able to predict risk of death over a 5- or 10-year period.

The finding is especially astonishing,

“given that it is only based on 14 metabolic markers in blood measured at a single point in the life of individuals,”

study director Eline Slagboom told Discover magazine.

Personalized Medicine

Some of those molecules are already well-established to correlate with or contribute to mortality risk. This blood-based test is intended as a first step towards a more personalized treatment of the elderly, It could also be a valuable tool in clinical trials.

“As researchers on aging, we are keen to determine the biological age. The calendar age just doesn’t say very much about the general state of health of elderly people: one 70-year-old is healthy, while another may already be suffering from three diseases. We now have a set of biomarkers which may help to identify vulnerable elderly people, who could subsequently be treated,"

explained Prof. Slagboom. It is a large study[1], involving 44,168 individuals from 12 cohorts, spanning a wide age range.

“Predicting longer-term mortality risk requires collection of clinical data, which is often cumbersome,"

the study authors write.

Healthcare Without MDs?

In other words, a doctor or nurse has to see you and do an exam currently. It would be more a more efficient approach to run your bloodwork and gather data without paying a health-care professional to spend time with you, other than the phlebotomist drawing your blood.

Is this is a step toward healthcare without MDs?

And will this type of screening score become available to insurance companies to make decisions about treating people?. If you are probably going to die in the next 5 years, how will society decide whether it is cost-effective to treat you?

The 14 biomarkers are:


  1. Total lipids in chylomicrons and extremely large VLDL - higher levels are good

  2. Total lipids in small HDL - higher levels are good

  3. Mean diameter for VLDL particles - higher levels are good

  4. Ratio of polyunsaturated fatty acids to total fatty acids (%) - higher levels are good

  5. Glucose - higher levels are bad

  6. Lactate - higher levels are bad

  7. Histidine - higher levels are good

  8. Isoleucine - higher levels are bad

  9. Leucine - higher levels are good

  10. Valine - higher levels are good

  11. Phenylalanine - higher levels are bad

  12. Acetoacetate - higher levels are bad

  13. Albumin - higher levels are good

  14. Glycoprotein acetyls - higher levels are bad

This research only identifies the correlations between the 14 blood molecules and mortality, not the reasons behind them. The study will most likely generate further research into each of these molecules.

But if you want a good answer as to why an increased level of isoleucine generates a sub ten percent increase to all-cause mortality, you better start writing that grant proposal.

[1] Joris, D., et. al A metabolic profile of all-cause mortality risk identified in an observational study of 44,168 individuals. Nature Communications, volume 10, Article number: 3346 (2019)

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