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The Long and Short of It

Researchers, including the University of California, San Francisco's Elizabeth Blackburn, are looking into whether telomeres can be used to gauge a person's health risks. Blackburn, who won a Nobel Prize for her work on telomeres, tells Scientific American that "telomere shortness anticipates risk for conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's and certain cancers — even for mortality." She has also started a company based on her work, and it is developing a way to measure telomeres. "Our aim is to provide the tests as a way to help people take greater charge of their own health," she says, noting that the test will not be sold direct to consumers. Scientific American also asks whether she'd consider getting her telomeres measured, and Blackburn replies: "Yes, when the company starts offering individual tests. I look forward to it."