How Old Are You Inside? Blood Test May Tell
Researchers Report Development of a Blood Test to Check People's 'Molecular Age'
Sharpless sees several possible uses for the p16 blood test.
For instance, he says the test could be used as a way to determine which patients are eligible for certain medical treatments that have age limits. "There are some really healthy 70 year olds out there who are very fit and can have fairly aggressive therapies, and then there are some people who are two decades younger who are not so fit, who are sort of prematurely old," Sharpless says.
He also sees the p16 test as a tool for researchers to explore whether anti-aging candidates -- such as resveratrol or green tea -- really delay aging.
"I jog and try and drink green tea or red wine," Sharpless says. "But wouldn't you like to know, if you're doing that stuff for decades at a time, that it's working? Wouldn't you like some solid evidence that these sorts of wellness behaviors are really doing what you're intending them to do?"
Sharpless worries about how the test might be used by health insurance companies or employers.
"I think we have to be careful about how you would apply such a marker," he says. "This is an issue we're going to have to face in the future as a society."
Sharpless says the p16 test isn't available yet, and other researchers are working on other aging tests that measure different things are in the works.
He also notes that he has a financial interest in the p16 blood test. The University of North Carolina holds a related patent and G-Zero Therapeutics, a company Sharpless co-founded, is developing the test.
Read more about the p16 molecular aging test on WebMD's news blog.