Can a blood biomarker tell when you'll buy the farm?

Sure, nothing is certain but death and taxes, but what if death were made even more certain? Like, say, within 12 years of accuracy?  Researchers in Sweden found that those who had higher levels of a blood biomarker called cathepsin S were more likely to die within the next dozen years, according to Technology Review.

Researchers looked at nearly 2,000 people whose average age was about 70, and followed them for 12 years. About one-fourth of them died and, after controlling for factors such as age, weight and disease history, cathepsin S levels still accompanied a greater risk of death. In one group, those with the highest levels were likely to die of heart disease or cancer, in particular. "It predicts two of the most common causes of death, which is unusual," Johan Ärnlöv, a physician and scientist at Uppsala University, tells Technology Review.

Harvard's Thomas Wang cautions against reading too much into this study. It is not known whether this molecule is tied to these diseases specifically or is a sign of poor health in general. And, as Ärnlöv says, "It has complex roles in the body. It seems to be involved in a lot of diseases and with pain or chronic inflammation." So, while measuring these levels probably does not "predict" death, the test could help in developing a future drug that inhibits cathepsin, Wang said.


- read the Technology Review article
- and the full paper in JAMA