Aging biomarkers and the measurement of health and risk

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Prevention of age-related disorders is increasingly in focus of health policies, and it is hoped that early intervention on processes of deterioration can promote healthier and longer lives. New opportunities to slow down the aging process are emerging with new fields such as personalized nutrition. Data-intensive research has the potential to improve the precision of existing risk factors, e.g., to replace coarse-grained markers such as blood cholesterol with more detailed multivariate biomarkers. In this paper, we follow an attempt to develop a new aging biomarker. The vision among the project consortium, comprising both research and industrial partners, is that the new biomarker will be predictive of a range of age-related conditions, which may be preventable through personalized nutrition. We combine philosophical analysis and ethnographic fieldwork to explore the possibilities and challenges of managing aging through bodily signs that are not straightforwardly linked to symptomatic disease. We document how the improvement of measurement brings about new conceptual challenges of demarcating healthy and unhealthy states. Moreover, we highlight that the reframing of aging as risk has social and ethical implications, as it is generative of normative notions of what constitutes successful aging and good citizenship.
Original languageEnglish
Article number28
JournalHistory and Philosophy of the Life Sciences
Issue number28
Pages (from-to)1-23
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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