Can death be predicted with a saliva sample? GWG Life is in search of an answer!

by hasnain.alam

A saliva test could determine how long we may live. 

Researchers have found that the closest a human gets to death, the lower the amount of a specific antibody is found in their system. 

To conclude, tests from 639 adults were collected in 1995 and followed up for 19 years. 

They noticed that the amount of secretory immunoglobulin A (IgA) had fallen when the individual got closer to death.

Researchers also concluded that the same chemical tends to be a marker of the likelihood of death and is much less harmful than blood screening. 

IgA tests could be used as a method of looking at overall wellbeing by clinicians as part of a general verification (Fernandez, 2015).

A life insurance company is all about making a decision on how long you’re going to survive. Now, one business is turning to find answers by exploring an unverified area of epigenetics to try to make the gamble more scientific.

GWG Life, which buys life insurance plans from people who don’t want or can’t afford them anymore, launched a campaign asking a sample of individuals to turn over a saliva sample. Its quarry: DNA methylation trends. From a layman’s point of view, the samples are examined to see if those genes are turned on or off at hundreds of unique locations.

The impact of lifestyle on the durability of life

It is more about testing for an individual’s aging cycle rather than identifying the time of death. The reasoning to support this statement could be that the lifestyle of an individual is a strong external factor, such as engaging in dangerous activities like skydiving can increase the chances of living a shorter life. GWG is just the newest in a wave of entrepreneurs looking at DNA for answers on how quickly people age.

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Personal lifestyles can cause changes in DNA methylation. Appropriate investigation of the smoking habit on DNA methylation pro-pillars has been especially well handled to discover some significant smoking-related markers (Hamano et al., 2017).

Several firms have been selling mail-order surveys to calculate the longevity of people’s telomeres. (These are DNA caps at the end of chromosomes; worn down telomeres have been related to disease risk.) Last year, California biotech introduced a service that uses DNA methylation analysis to help researchers assess the biological (in relation to the chronological) age samples.

Then there is the GWG, which is aiming to change the whole life insurance market. 

Based in Minneapolis, GWG works in most states and last year purchased 315 insurance contracts. Its sales pitch: “We’re going to pay you upfront for your plan. We’re going to pay your premiums for the remainder of your life.  When you die, we’re going to get the insurance amount.”

Insurance companies

To earn a profit, it is vital for businesses like GWG that work in this rather macabre environment to determine exactly how long each policyholder is likely to live. (They don’t want to spend that much in front of customers who are expected to be alive for several years, delaying the company’s payday.)

In the past few years, insurers have been wrong about their estimations of the lifespan of any person, as some people lived much longer. 

However, there were few options for forensic science to determine the age of the person of concern in actual research, such as the morphological study of bones or the analysis of dental amino acids. Furthermore, biological fluids, which are more generally found, cannot be studied using these morphological techniques (Hamano et al., 2017).

GWS and its efforts

GWG is now attempting to estimate average lifespan by examining policyholders’ health records, reviewing their prescription medications, and holding telephone interviews. (Previews that these considerations will have to be taken into account long after epigenetics has been integrated.) In order to receive life insurance, customers also need to fill out surveys about their family history or opt for semen or urine, or blood tests.

Rules at the federal level and in several states prohibit insurance insurers and contractors from requesting or discriminating against genetic details.

The standard is much smaller for life insurance, which, if questioned, must simply persuade state authorities that there is a valid statistical justification for including a certain element in underwriting. Thus, for example, if the individual’s medical reports indicate that the gene mutation associated with breast and ovarian cancer has been checked positive, the insurer will take this into consideration when deciding rates.

References 

Fernandez, C. (2015, December 23). The spit test that can predict how long you will live: Levels of an antibody in the body fall the nearer a person gets to death. Daily Mail. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-3372233/The-spit-test-predict-long-live-Levels-antibody-body-fall-nearer-person-gets-death.html

Hamano, Y., Morimoto, C., Manabe, S., & Fujimoto, S. (2017). Personal lifestyles can cause changes in DNA methylation. Appropriate investigation of the smoking habit on DNA methylation pro-pillars has been especially well handled. Researchgate. Researchgate. 10.1038/s41598-017-10752-w

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