Medicine and the Media

Would you like your telomeres tested?

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e681 (Published 8 February 2012)
Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e681

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  1. Margaret McCartney, general practitioner, Glasgow
  1. margaret{at}margaretmccartney.com

A US company claims that the length of people’s telomeres indicates their general state of health. Margaret McCartney questions the reliability of the test

A company that is based in the United States, Life Length, is offering “telomere testing and services” from its laboratory in Spain, with the aim of “making it easy for physicians and their patients to take our biomarker test,” says its press release.1 It adds, “Telomeres are best predictors of biological age and excellent general health indicators, highly related to the emergence of age-related diseases. This test will likely become standard in checks-up and preventive healthcare. US doctors can now incorporate Life Length’s telomere test easily into their practice.”

Telomeres are repeated sequences of DNA at the end of chromosomes that stabilise the chromosomes and prevent them being identified by cells as broken DNA. For some time it has been known that abnormal or shortened telomeres cause chromosomal problems, which in turn have been related to some disorders, including tumorigenesis. Life Length says that it can test anyone, no matter where they are, although the blood sample to be tested must be analysed within …

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