Length of Life

July 13, 2011

There is a Spanish company called Life Length that claims to be able to conduct a test that will tell you how long you have to live. It measures the lengths of your telomeres, which are the end caps on your chromosomes that get shorter each time the cell divides until they disappear and the cell can divide no more. By measuring the ratio of short telomeres to the average telomere length, Life Length claim to be able to estimate how much time you have left. I am unable to give you more detail of how they work their wonders because their web site is so incompetently built that clicking a link just returns you to the links page, but should you wish to avail yourself of their service you will have to part with the trifling sum of €550.

Chromosomes (grey) with telomeres (white)


But why would you do that? The lengths of your telomeres cannot predict that you won’t die of heart disease, say, or economy class syndrome, or being hit on the head by a meteorite traveling at 12,000m/s, or even a bus moving at 20m/s. The main problem I have with this test is that it ignores all other factors that will play a part in determining when you are going to die. You can have telomeres the length of the great wall of China and it won’t deflect the executioner’s bullet, axe or needle one iota. So even after undergoing the tests you still won’t know what you wanted to find out. And why would you wish to find out? Will it make a huge difference to your life to know that you have a short or long time left to you? I would far prefer to be surprised when the grim reaper shows up.
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