The Other I

August 11, 2013

Do we want to know?

Filed under: Intriguing Science — theotheri @ 4:16 pm

The Sunday papers today are reporting that two British professors have patented a test that analyzes endothelial reactivity.

Oh good, you say – just what I always wondered about myself.

The paper is calling it a Death Test, but if the Americans get hold of it, it will undoubtedly be called a Life Test.   Either way, endothelial reactivity measures the oscillation within the blood cells of capillaries, our smallest blood vessels.  The results indicate just how well an individual is functioning over all, and so can predict the undiagnosed presence of cancer and dementia.

But the results are also graded for optimal functioning between 0 and 100, and with sufficient data will ultimately be able to make a reasonably accurate prediction of when an individual will die – even if that event is decades away.

The good news is that the test is a laser test that is completely painless, non-invasive, even user-friendly.  The expectation is that the test will be available to GP’s within three years.

If it were on offer, would you take it?  At my age now I would – it would make it much easier to plan for the rest of my limited future here.  But would I want to know at the age of eighteen how long I probably had to live barring accident or epidemic.  Or at the age of forty?  fifty?

One thing for sure, once the data is reliable enough, insurance and pension companies are going to want to know.



  1. Hopefully, this one won’t be any more reliable than the genetic tests that purport to tell you who your ancestors were.


    Comment by pianomusicman — August 11, 2013 @ 5:13 pm | Reply

  2. Ha ha “Life test”! you are right. They will do that!
    It’s all a bit “Minority Report” if you have seen/read that?
    Would i have it? Well, a friend of mine at 41 has terminal cancer, and I know she would have liked to have known – if only to take preventative surgery, quicker treatment etc. Does that kind of thing count – by knowing, would that make any difference? Does it ‘work’ for cancers, or is it just general?
    It this test just about general fitness. I don’t see how it works – people can change their life expectancy, surely, by not eating donuts and by deciding to move about more…

    The only thing that runs in my family is … reaching a reasonable age, and then keeling over with something you’d expect to keel over from.

    My theism lets me let the future rest with God. He’ll decide when it’s my time – be that by cancer, stroke, accident – whatever. I’m good to go. I’ve had fun.


    Comment by sanstorm — August 11, 2013 @ 5:19 pm | Reply

    • My guess is that circumstances would make the biggest difference. I know several women, including my mother, who used the time they knew they had before dying, to prepare their children and husbands.

      But perhaps being told that one could potentially give oneself another 1-5-10 years by changing one’s life style could make a difference when a doctor is talking about your body in particular. I know what research says in general about the effect of exercise, sugar, smoking, alcohol etc. on life expectancy. But I wouldn’t be surprised if a specific prediction about oneself might make a difference. My sister, for instance, stopped smoking, full stop, on the day she was told she had cancer. I doubt it made much difference. But what if she’d been given some very personalized prediction ten years earlier?

      On the other hand, I also think that some people, regardless of belief or lack of it, simply don’t want to know when science would predict they will die. In any case, whether one does or does not know, one can still believe ones future rests with God. Or not, of course.

      Fascinating subject though, isn’t it? Thank you for your thoughts and for keeping me thinking about it.


      Comment by Terry Sissons — August 12, 2013 @ 3:12 pm | Reply

  3. Wow! Is this connected to the ‘life line’ on my hand which the old fairground ‘Gypsy’ used to interpret?


    Comment by lairdglencairn — August 13, 2013 @ 7:16 am | Reply

    • Now wouldn’t that be fascinating if there turned out to be a relationship between that life line on the hand and the size of our capillaries.

      Which leads to another question: I wonder if anybody has ever done any research on that gypsy’s life line and how long we actually live? I’m convinced that not all ancient “wisdom” is mere superstition. Some of it is legitimate knowledge based on experience. It’s the separating them out that’s the challenge, isn’t it?

      Thanks for the thought! (I now have even more questions that I did before.)


      Comment by theotheri — August 13, 2013 @ 11:46 am | Reply

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