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 buccal (gum and cheek) cell collection kit, which can then be mailed back to us in a pre-paid envelope through their regular US 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 often update our reference pool with customer results (with their approval), so as more individuals try our service the accuracy of our measurements may change. Since the results are stored online, we provide the ability for users to update their past results with newer prediction models as they become available. If multiple measurements are performed at the same time, the results are highly consistent. Age estimates vary depending on gender and predicted age group, but our current mathematical model matches most users to within a few years of their chronological age.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 DNA 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.You report some of the error ranges as median absolute deviation, or MAD. Can you explain that in more depth?
Median absolute deviation is a statistic designed to be less influenced by outliers, and gives a better overall picture of consistent trend. In general, its best to view it as a general range of uncertainty (plus or minus) on our part of your age estimate.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 well as each customer’s date of birth. The date of birth is so that we can constantly try to improve our models by comparing analysis results to known chronological ages. Beyond that, we may begin 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.