I became interested in the longevity and anti-aging industry after listening to a podcast about this topic in connection with a recent issue of Business Week. Here is the link to the set of articles in the magazine (registration required) and here is the link to the excellent podcast about the topic with John Byrne, executive editor of the magazine, and Arlene Weintraub who wrote the cover story.
Just to frame the issue and get your attention, annual revenue from the anti-aging industry is estimated to be $56B -- this includes products such as anti-aging cream and botox injections. Need to find an anti-aging physician? No problem. Here is the link to the home page of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M). It's not too late to attend the 14th Annual International Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine. It's April 7-9 at Disneyland. You can spend hours on this web site. Here is just one teaser from the home page, discussing mitochondrial leaks:
Why does an elephant live twenty times longer than a mouse? Partly just because it's bigger, but even after correcting for body mass, mammals with fast metabolic rates (high oxygen consumption), such as mice, age and die swiftly, whereas animals with slow metabolic rates, such as elephants, live longer and age more slowly.
So where so the labs come into this whole story? Apparently, it is a relatively common practice for anti-aging specialists to administer human growth hormone and testosterone off-label. Here is a web site where you can order CDs discussing hormone therapy as part of an anti-aging regimen. Here is a web site for ordering both hormones directly. The hard-to-diagnose "adult growth hormone deficiency" may be part of the differential diagnosis for some anti-aging patients.
As part of the initial work-up of a patient by an anti-aging specialist, it is common practice to determine the patient's biologic age and assess the need for hormonal replacement. Although I suspect that much of the lab work from the anti-aging physicians gravitates to specialized clinical labs, some of the specimens may be submitted to national and regional labs and contribute to normal work flow. Here is an article about lab "assessment categories" for the anti-aging physician written by a non-physician.
So what are the [laboratory] assessment categories? First of all there is the gastrointestinal system. Here you have an assessment of gastrointestinal function and the ecology of the GI tract, including intestinal wall integrity, small bowel bacterial overgrowth, yeast presence, immune function, parasitic activity, and specific allergies or food intolerances. Next is the nutritional category, and here we are concerned with mineral analysis – predominantly of toxic and nutritional minerals, whether macro or trace minerals, amino acid analysis, essential fatty acid analysis, and antioxidant and vitamin analysis. Here, you are basically looking at the most important parts of the building blocks associated with body. Organic acid analysis is a relatively new test that is available in the industry....You can get an enormous amount of information from the organic acids that are excreted in the urine on a daily basis.
So there you have it, a booming segment of the health care industry, centered in Southern California and paid for largely out-of-pocket, that undoubtedly makes relatively heavy use of the clinical laboratories.