The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), the Australia's national science agency, says it has developed a blood test that has the potential help people live to 100 years.
The test, hailed as the first of its kind, essentially measures the level of damage to a person's DNA and can point to the likelihood of certain degenerative conditions, including cancer, developing later in life.
It will also allow doctors to determine an optimum combination and level of supplements or suggest changes to lifestyle and diet to best repair the DNA damage.
CSIRO principal scientist Michael Fenech said the evidence linking genome damage to degenerative diseases was mounting.
"As we age, our bodies produce poorer copies of DNA," he said.
"It is something like a photocopier that is running out of toner. If the toner is running low, the copies get worse.
"Optimal intake of key nutrients is required if cells in the body are to make accurate copies of DNA and produce healthy daughter cells."
Federal Minister for Ageing, Christopher Pyne, said the new blood test was a major step forward in preventative medicine.
"Preventing disease is an opportunity to reduce human suffering and the costs of degenerative diseases to the community," Pyne said.
"A growing body of scientific evidence has linked the degeneration of the human genome to an increased likelihood of degenerative diseases, such as cancer an Alzheimer's disease.
"This test has the potential to revolutionize the way we approach attempting to prevent or delay the onset of such diseases."
But the cost of the test and an accompanying medical assessment will not come cheap, with a $650 price tag applied by the Reach 100 company which has commercialized the procedure.
Reach 100 director Tim Edwards admitted it was an expensive procedure, but felt the cost would come down signi
ficantly as it became more widely taken up.
It was also hoped private health funds and the Federal Government might help cover some of the cost in the future.
Dr Edwards said the test would shift the focus from treating diseases once they had manifested to actively preventing them.
"This world-first advance in preventative medicine can now give people a glimpse into their future health and equip them with the knowledge they need to stay healthy," he said.
"In most cases, human genome damage can be reversed or reduced by simple, inexpensive measures such as changes to diet and lifestyle.
"Optimising the amount of folate (a water-soluble B vitamin that occurs naturally in food) and vitamin B12 in the diet is one of the most important known factors in reducing genome damage and this test indicates exactly how much is needed," Edwards added. Related medicine news :1
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