Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What is the Epigenetic Age Analysis service? How does it work?
This service provides a biological predictor of age. Over a person’s lifetime, DNA undergoes repeated chemical changes, referred to as epigenetic changes. These epigenetic changes can potentially alter the way genes function, which can have further physiological consequences. Many of these epigenetic changes appear random, but some regions of DNA experience consistent and predictable epigenetic changes that progress with age like the ticking of a clock. Our service looks specifically at several of these areas of a person’s DNA and uses the observed epigenetic changes to predict their age.What is the benefit of the Epigenetic Age Analysis service?
We provide this epigenetic information with two applications in mind. First, users of our service can use their predicted age to see if the epigenetic state of their DNA reflects that of a person who is either younger or older. Second, if a measurement is taken before starting a long-term lifestyle change, such as a change in diet or exercise, a measurement at a point farther in the future might let them see if the rate of these specific epigenetic changes has accelerated or slowed. For this second application, a longer length of time between measurements is likely preferable (years instead of months). Currently there are no published studies investigating the effect of lifestyle changes on these specific epigenetic markers, but it is a subject that we are actively pursuing.If I order the Epigenetic Age Analysis service, what happens?
We provide users with a saliva collection kit, which can then be mailed back to us in a pre-paid envelope through their regular mail service with an expected turnaround time of one to three weeks once we receive the sample. Results are then provided directly online to individual user accounts. We currently base our estimates on our pool of users, so as more individuals try our service, the accuracy of our measurements may change. Since the results are stored online, we regularly update past user results to reflect our improving prediction model. The cost of a single analysis is $65 plus shipping, and our current model is able to predict age within +/- approximately seven years standard deviation.I previously had my DNA analyzed through a service, such as provided by 23andMe. Can I just upload my previous results for analysis?
No, unfortunately other services, such as provided by 23andMe, only detect the sequence of your genes. The Epigenetic Age Analysis service works by detecting natural chemical modification that have occurred within your DNA (think of them like DNA decorations). Our service will require that you provide a new saliva sample.Can your Epigenetic Age Analysis service predict how long I will live?
No. Our service is designed only to give you an estimate of your current age based on your DNA.Can you explain the approximate +/- 5 to 7 years standard deviation in more depth?
The standard deviation is showing how far off from chronological age you can expect each estimate to be on average. The more in-depth explanation is this: when looking at our current models, we look at the distribution of the differences between estimated age and chronological age (essentially the errors in estimation). We then look at the mean of each distribution to make sure that it’s centered on zero, to show that the model isn’t consistently predicting high or low. If there is a bias, we add a constant offset to each estimate to ensure the distribution of errors is centered on zero. We then look at the standard deviation of the error distributions, which gives the average distance above or below zero for all of the errors. Also, this is the average amount that we are off. Individal measurement may have a smaller or larger error.Are the saliva/DNA samples stored or deleted after analysis?
The majority of each sample is destroyed or consumed in the steps of the analysis process. We only retain a small backup sample until the DNA sequencing results have been returned to us, in case something goes wrong during the sequencing process. Once we have the results, the backup is disposed of. We have no desire or capability to store samples long-term.How anonymous is the Epigenetic Age Analysis service? Are customer contact details associated with the results?
One of our main goals is to keep the customers as anonymous as possible. We do not collect or store customer names (or credit card information; credit card transactions are currently handled by Stripe). We do however collect billing and shipping addresses for shipping collection vials, as card as each customer’s date of birth and gender. The date of birth is so that we can constantly try to improve our models by comparing analysis results to known chronological ages. We ask each user’s gender because the age-related epigenetic trends in the areas of DNA we are examining are gender specific. As such, we actually employ two different models, one for men and one for women, in order to provide more accurate results. Beyond that, we are currently providing voluntary survey questions in each customer’s account area on our website, dealing with general lifestyle (diets, exercise, etc.). The idea being that in the future we may be able to provide customers with information regarding general statistical trends that we see between lifestyle and differences in estimated and chronological age.Do you share customer data with third parties?
No, we do not share customer data with third parties. In the future we may share our models, which are stripped of all information other than that relating to age estimate, gender, chronological age, and survey questions. We will never release any information that will reasonably allow anyone to connect our models back to a specific person.What information is provided to customers after the Epigenetic Age Analysis service?
Currently we provide an age estimate and a range of error. The information is made available to individual customers through their online account. We also provide a short PDF report with a more detailed explanation of the process and the specifics of the analysis of your sample.