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New blood screen can reveal risk of dying

Researchers from Finland and Estonia have identified four biomarkers that help to identify people at high risk of dying from any disease within the next five years.

The researchers screened blood samples from over 17 000 generally healthy people for more than a hundred different biomolecules. The health status of these study volunteers was followed for several years, and the researchers looked for measures in the blood that could reflect who had died within the following 5 years after the blood sample was taken. In a study published in PLOS Medicine they describe identification of four such biomarkers of death.

The identified biomarkers were albumin, alpha-1-acid glycoprotein, citrate and the size of very-low-density lipoprotein particles. Of these, albumin was the only one previously linked with mortality. All these molecules are normally present in everyone’s blood, but it is the amount of these molecules that was shown to be important. The novel biomarkers helped to detect individuals at much higher risk of dying during the five-year follow-up. The measures were independent of well-known risk factors such as age, smoking, drinking, obesity, blood pressure and cholesterol.

“What is especially interesting is that these biomarkers reflect the risk for dying from very different types of diseases such as heart disease or cancer. They seem to be signs of a general frailty in the body. Next we aim to study whether some kind of connecting factor between these biomarkers can be identified,” said Dr. Johannes Kettunen from the University of Helsinki, in a press release.

The scientists believe that in the future these measures can be used to identify people who appear healthy but in fact have serious underlying illnesses and guide them to proper treatment. The research was conducted in collaboration between the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland FIMM, University of Helsinki, and Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare, University of Oulu, University of Eastern Finland, and the Estonian Biobank.

Source: University of Helsinki