In this seventeenth episode, Gordon Lauc introduces glycobiology. He details GlycanAge®, the world’s first direct-to-consumer glycan-based product. He explains that it can quantify how well interventions (e.g. supplements) work for you as an individual, and how much healthy life you’ve got left. Finally he details a potential COVID-19 glycan biomarker to accurately assess your risk.
Lee: Hello Gordan, and welcome to the 17th episode of the Quantified Health, Wellness, and Aging podcast.
Gordan: Hi Lee, thank you for the invitation.
Lee: Most appreciated. I was surprised that you’re over in Zagreb, which is, I would say about less than 90 minutes away from where I am.
Gordan: Well, Zagreb is a nice location. It has a nice climate, smart people to work in my lab, and I was born in Croatia. So I like it here.
Lee: Let me tell you what I know of GlycanAge, which is pretty much nothing. Sometime ago, I’ll tell you a little backlog. Someone contacted me, I think you might know who he is, American, he was in the age range, 70, 80, somewhat older. And he pinged me on LinkedIn and said his favorite aging test was GlycanAge. I’d never heard of it. I didn’t think there was much credibility [laughter] because I get a lot messages of that nature. And then I got connected somehow to Nikolina, again on LinkedIn, and then I saw on a newsfeed later, I believe, funding to GlycanAge. And so it caught my attention. Then I thought, “Hey, I’ll test this out.” I believe there’s a test kit sitting in my UK home, obviously because of the new-imposed corona quarantine in the UK, it may be a few weeks before I’m able to do that.
Lee: So my plan was to perform the test, check it out, read about it, study it, then invite someone on to the podcast. But Nikolina reached out to me and here we are suddenly. And so I jump into it naive. And so let me begin with, you and Nikolina share the same surname I just noticed. So what’s the connection there?
Gordan: So,Nikolina is my daughter. I got her relatively early. I was less than 25, and she left 10 years ago. Went to London, became a businessman, business woman. And she never wanted to actually work with me because she wanted to be independent. It’s took me 10 years to convince her, to start working with the research, what we are doing, because she was doing business in different areas. And I said, “You know, you are wasting your time in doing some kind of regular business. Let’s try selling science. Because what I do, I do good science, but I’m not a salesperson. I don’t know how to sell things. I don’t know how to develop business.” So now we are working together because first she wanted to be independent, she proved to be independent. And now when she’s independent, I think she feels comfortable to work again with me, which makes me very happy.
Lee: You must be very proud to be working with her finally. It sounds like it’s been an ambition of yours.
Gordan: Yes. She was the business woman since kindergarten. In kindergarten she was selling frogs to the kids in the kindergarten.
Lee: Not lemonade?
Gordan: Then she was a business woman in high school. So I know she can sell refrigerators to Eskimos. So let’s see what she will do with the science what we do, because problem with glycans, and not only GlycanAge, glycans in general, is that people don’t know anything about them.
Gordan: And we have seen this especially in this COVID pandemics with even the director of NIH was showing the pictures of a spike glycoprotein without a single glycan. And it’s took a couple of months for majority of scientists to realize that there are actually lot of glycans in the COVID story. And now glycans are becoming more popular because of COVID.
Gordan: But I’m in a field of glycobiology for nearly 30 years. I did a lot of research in that field, and GlycanAge is actually one of the things, and GlycanAge is the first thing which we actually brought to the market. And I think it’s a good product because it’s actually based on a lot of science. So my lab so far analyzed over 150,000 people from different research cohorts. Not all of them for GlycanAge, but all of them for glycans. And one of the first things we learned, by analyzing large cohorts of people, is that glycans change as we get older.
Gordan: But contrary to some other tests of aging, like for example, Steve Horvath’s epigenetic clock, GlycanAge is not so accurate. So Steve’s clock can guess an age plus minus one year in a large cohort. We have a measurement error of approximately nine years. So we are not so good in predicting chronological age. But what we learned in our large cohorts, that actually the interesting thing is the difference between the age we predict through glycans and the chronological age, because this difference is explained by the healthy or unhealthy lifestyle with the ongoing or even future disease where we see the different in GlycanAge now, and the disease can happen later.
Gordan: We can go into molecular details if you want? Or if you just want to stay at this statement.
Lee: Yeah, sure. I would be interested in molecular talk. So first of all, I guess to begin that, I think you need to introduce what glycans are. I was completely unaware of glycans.
Gordan: So to do that, I will go back maybe three billion years when we were still all algae bacteria. And there was a war between bacteria and viruses, which were trying to eat bacteria or actually multiplying them. And the bacteria were trying to become different, to use some kind of a camouflage, to avoid being recognized by a virus.
Gordan: And then they invented glycans. So the life began with the nucleic acids, which then later invented proteins to be more diverse. And then as the third revolution and evolution, the glycans were invented. So actually glycans were invented by algae bacteria couple of billion years ago.
Gordan: And, but the real kind of blooming of the glycosylation happened when the life became multicellular. So when we stopped being a single cell and became a multicellular organism. When the, for example, humans have hundreds of thousands of different cell types, they have to differentiate, our neurons have to talk together. We have to communicate. Our cells have to communicate. And all this requires much more information than what genes and proteins can give us, because the simplest bacteria, like Escherichia Coli, would have a 5,000 genes, while humans would have approximately 20,000 genes. And we are not only four times more complicated than bacteria.
Gordan: So what happened with the appearance of multicellular life? Practically all proteins, so all the molecules which do the work in our body, became glycoproteins. So in addition to having 20 amino acids as a building block, they got thousands of different glycan blocks, which can be added and modify the structure. And instead of being encoded by a single gene, as proteins are, glycans are encoded by interaction of hundreds of genes, their sequence, their epigenetic regulation and the environmental impacts. So what we have actually, with glycans, is another layer of complexity, which enabled life to become multicellular.
Gordan: And now the question, why is nobody talking about it? And the reason is that these structures are chemically very complicated. And although early in the last century, carbohydrates or glycans and nucleic acids and proteins were similarly started, at the middle of the 20th century technology developed to analyze genetic information. And then most of the science focused on genes. So most of science was looking at genetic information, later also epigenetic information, a little bit of proteomics, but this is all the linear information. It’s a sequence which you can just write down as a sequence of letters.
Gordan: While glycans are chemically complicated, you need sophisticated machines to analyze them, which makes the study difficult. This is why the field of glycobiology is lagging, at least a couple of decades, behind the field of genetics.
Gordan: But in the last decade, we see a revolution in glycobiology. We see technologies which enabled detailed analysis of glycans. Actually a couple of days ago, there was a science paper showing photography of a single glycan. So under microscope you can see a single glycan structure now. And we also developed technologies which enable analysis of huge cohorts of people, thousands of people. And then in the last decade, we started to learn a lot about glycans. And this is why we have these new discoveries. And actually the first discovery which is on the market, is the GlycanAge. There is also second now, which was established, introduced by a UK company called Helena Biosciences, which is the Glyco Liver Test, which is the glycan test for liver disease. But it’s kind of a different product.
Lee: Okay. So first questions first. Apart from the company you mentioned, are there other consumer focus companies in the field of glycans?
Gordan: End to consumer? No. So actually even the number of companies in the field of glycobiology is relatively limited, maybe less than 100 globally. And they mostly work with the pharmaceutical industry. They help big companies develop new glycoprotein drugs, because most of the novel so-called smart drugs or wonder drugs are actually glycoproteins. So small companies help the big pharma develop this, and this would be the first… GlycanAge is the first company which is trying to sell something based on glycans direct to consumer.
Lee: Okay. And what’s the structure of GlycanAge, the company? Where is it based? Is it privately held? Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought I saw a investment and that’s what flagged it to me.
Gordan: So it’s a private company. We took one investment, small one, not large. And it’s a London based company, though the laboratory and the research part is based in Zagreb, which is actually another company called Genos, which is doing all this glycan related research. So the Genos, which is my primary company, is a 50 plus researchers company. We are in the market for 13 years and we mostly collaborate with research institutions all around the world. For example, we are currently studying a couple of thousand of patients with incident cardiovascular diseases, which we got from Harvard. Actually, we just got one cohort of COVID patients from Bergamo and so on. So we do a lot of research on glycans in my company in Zagreb, and maybe a decade ago, we discovered this link between glycans and aging, which was developed into the product GlycanAge, which is then licensed to this GlycanAge company, which is now marketing the product.
Lee: Okay. So this Genos is RND and you’re taking a B2C route in terms of biological aging via glycanage.com. And do you have other plans to take a B2C route or are you solely focused on GlycanAge?
Gordan: It’s a difficult question. So the actually even GlycanAge is not only B2C because I think the B2B is equally important, because there are many companies globally, which are offering anti aging treatments, which are offering different lifestyle interventions, where a GlycanAge could actually help to quantify how well does each of these intervention work for a specific individual. Because I think one of the biggest problems in everything what we are doing, starting from diet, exercise, to all those biohacking things, is that people are different. So not the same… there is no single approach which would work for everybody. And we don’t have tools to quantify what actually works. And we hope that this GlycanAge could actually help those companies see which kind of intervention works for a specific person. So I see also the B2C and B2B branch of GlycanAge.
Gordan: We also have a number of other products in the pipeline, but these are more diagnostic products, which will have to go to the different route because it requires regulatory approval. And it is not easy for glycans to be approved as a diagnostic biomarkers because technology to measure glycans is not available in routine laboratories. So this would be a longer path and this kind of non-regulated lifestyle test like GlycanAge, which we got opinion from the European Medical Agency that it’s not a diagnostic test, is a kind of easy way to the market.
Lee: Okay. That’s quite clear and I appreciate that. You were quite succinct. So let me jump back to something that you said earlier and just checked I understood it correctly. It appeared you were saying that the Horvath clock is plus or minus one year, whereas the GlycanAge gave your age within nine years. Did I understand correctly?
Gordan: So this is the average. So when you take a thousand people and you look for the median difference between age and GlycanAge, or age and epigenetic age, this is what you get in a large cohort. For a given individual the number can be larger, but median, this would be the difference, yes.
Lee: As we spoke, I just did a Google search and it said GlycanAge, and this is on your LinkedIn, the best biomarker of biological age. It’s the best marker of biological age but it’s the least accurate.
Gordan: No, no, no. It’s less accurate in predicting chronological age. So if you are 40…
Lee: Okay. That’s quite smart. Can you expand upon that so we can be sure everyone gets it?
Gordan: Okay. So your chronological age is the number of times the Earth went around the sun since you were born. This is how we measure calendar. And some tests like the Steve Horvath’s epigenetic clock, was developed to predict this age. So what Steve did, he measured 300,000 epigenetic marks in thousands of people, and then used computer modeling to select 353, I think, to predict the chronological age. And this is actually so accurate that it is not really useful because if you tell me what is my chronological age, I know that. So for example, this test is now being used by the German police to identify age of illegal immigrants. So somebody comes in says, “I am 16, I am minor, you have to let me in the country.” They do the tests and say, “No, you’re 25, go out.” But for any kind of medical applications, this is too accurate.
Gordan: And for example, what Steve did, he developed something called the Grim methylation clock, GrimAge, Grim methylation genetic age, which is based on some other things, not just the chronological age. So this was based on smoking and some protein markers. And I’ve seen a couple of weeks ago, there is another epigenetic clock, which was also predicting different outcomes, not just chronological age.
Gordan: So for GlycanAge, the fact that we are not accurate in predicting the chronological age, tells us that there is something more than chronological age, which affects the glycans. And what we know from our research, and it’s thousands and thousands, I think it’s over 8,000 people at the moment that we analyzed. We know that this difference is explained by different elements of unhealthy lifestyle and diseases which are going on. So the fact that for example, somebody is 10 years younger or older has a biological message. And this is what makes GlycanAge the best biological test. Because when you get this information, this information has some kind of significance for your health.
Lee: Yeah, it sounds awesome. And I’m really quite surprised. As I said, I ignored those signals coming into me to begin with about the GlycanAge test, because I thought, “Hey, look, if this was significant, I would have known about it.” So now I’ve got as far as talking with yourself and now I’ve just heard the… now you most certainly have my interest. So now I wish I knew one hell of a lot more. The question that comes up now then, this must be therefore a great measurement of what I’ll call true health. Correct?
Gordan: Well this is definitely one component of true health. So we cannot claim there is one universal health versus disease. You can be perfectly healthy metabolically, but you could have, I don’t know, a cancer which will kill you. Or you can have a COVID which would kill you despite the fact that you are healthy otherwise. So, but one aspect and what I think what this test is actually measuring is low grade chronic inflammation. And we are doing huge amount of research. Exactly, because of what you said, you never heard about it. But you have heard about dozens of different biological age tests. You can go on the internet.
Lee: Absolutely. And I had another epigenetic age test company planned before even considering looking myself, even towards GlycanAge, it was only because of your daughter that I jumped the queue with yourself and I’m becoming glad I did.
Gordan: So epigenetic age is something which is extremely interesting. We are also working a lot on epigenetics because what we think is that there is epigenetic information behind GlycanAge also. So something which is changed in epigenetics is then translated into the different GlycanAge. One thing which is important to distinguish here is that epigenetics is information. It’s something like an instruction book. What to do, how to do, when to do, similar like genetics. So genetic is a kind of a hardwired information. Epigenetics is more soft. You can change it during your lifetime, while proteins and glycans, they’re effectors. They do the work. So the problem with epigenetics today is that we still don’t really know how to interpret it. So we measure 600,000 epigenetic letters or marks, and this is only for methylation. There are other layers of have epigenetics.
Lee: Can you repeat how many?
Gordan: So there are billions. But what we measure is usually 600,000. This is the current technology, the EPIC array and some other arrays, which analyze methylation. They usually currently analyze 600,000 for scientific projects. I don’t know what the companies who sell these tests actually measure. So if we do a research project, and we did a lot of research projects with people doing epigenetics, is they measure 600,000 data points, and then out of these 600,000, you have to understand which are important. And this is not easy. So there is a huge genetic statistics and genetic epidemiology science behind it. And then you find, for example, what the Steve Horvath did. He found sites, which predicts chronological age, which is extremely cool. You can take a drop of blood and say, it comes from a 57 year old male or whatever.
Gordan: But to understand what are the consequences of something, you have to look, for example, at people who got a heart attack and people who didn’t got a heart attack and look what is the difference in methylation? And then you say, “Okay, these marks maybe predict heart attack.” And then you do it for diabetes. You do it for other diseases. And there is a huge amount of research going on at the moment. This is extremely interesting. And the problem I see as trying to use it as a commercial product is that once you have a commercial product on the market, you actually have to do all this research for your product. Because if you use the word epigenetics, this is not the same like Steve’s clock, green clock, some other clock. You know, epigenetic is a very wide world.
Gordan: So anybody putting the test on a market will have to show what is this test actually measuring? And this is the greatest challenge for all those companies. So the way we went forward is that we were first pushing on science. And as I said, I’m a primarily scientist. I’m a professor at university. I have my private research institute and we analyze many, many, many people. And I always want to analyze more people. We do something like 30,000 people a year now. And we try to see what actually happens when people have different glycans.
Gordan: For example, one question we have in the lab now is… We have a cohort of 1,000 people. They were on four different diets for a year. We have a sample before and sample later. And we would like to see what happens with their glycans, depending on the diet. So will high carb diet change glycans in one way, compared to the low carb diet? It’s still a question, but it’s in the lab at the moment.
Lee: Do you think it’s that sensitive to pick that up?
Gordan: Oh yes. Oh yeah. Oh yeah. But the problem is, different diets will have a different effect on the different people. For example, we did recently… We are just about to publish that. We did the bariatric surgery. This is a surgery when your stomach is reduced. So people usually lose weight after that. And we had some people losing 30 glycan years in six months after that test, while some lost only maybe two. So people respond differently. We had people on different anti-inflammatory drugs like infliximab, which is used in IBD and some other diseases.
Gordan: Some people react strongly. Some people don’t. We had people exercising. We have several cohorts of people exercising. Some people when they start exercising, their glycan age gets better. In other people, it gets worse because their inflammation increases. So people are different. There is no standard human and we still have to learn a lot. You know, our knowledge is still just a minor component compared to our lack of knowledge. What we don’t know.
Lee: I appreciate that. So when you’re… There’s just so many questions, here. I’ll try and just keep to the core ones, so I don’t keep you for two days. So as soon as you say inflammation, I instantly start thinking of CRP, interleukin-6 (IL-6), and so a fibrinogen and so on. And so I’m a little confused as to what you’re measuring, that these are not measuring, when you say the word inflammation, in standard blood chemistry tests.
Gordan: So you have to… So we are comparing all these components. So when you look for example at CRP, there are two different CRPs on the market. One is a standard and the other one is high sensitivity CRP. The standard one is something that changes is extremely quickly with infection. If you have a bacterial infection, CRP will go 20, 100, 200 fold. CRP is measuring acute inflammation. So it’s not really inflammation in long-term.
Gordan: High sensitivity CRP, which is kind of basal levels of CRP when you don’t have inflammation, if you don’t have inflammation, is a little bit more informative, but it is still a more kind of what is going on at the moment. While glycans, IgG glycans, which are part of GlycanAge, give you kind of a cumulative information of what was going on in you in the last couple of years, at least. So it’s a kind of, it’s a benchmark where you are and which does not change very quickly.
Gordan: You know, it takes weeks, even months to change your glycan age, whatever you do. IL6 is very interesting. IL6, for example, is one of the molecules which regulate IgG glycosylation. So, there are many components. And the key question is, if you measure something, how well will this predict what will happen in the future? And what we know now based on our research, for example, that one of the IgG glycans is the best predictor of future heart attack or stroke. We published it earlier this year on a huge cohort, 27,000 people from Germany. This is something we are now trying to replicate with the Harvard cohort. We know, for example, if your glycans change now, you are at much higher risk to develop some kind of inflammatory disease like rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus, IBD. These are the…
Lee: What do you mean if they change now?
Gordan: If your glycans are altered now, meaning if they are different from their… If you have a bad IgG glycan, you have a bad glycan age. So a bad glycan age is a risk factor for many different diseases. What we know, for example, if you lose weight, most of the people, your glycan age becomes better. If you do moderate exercise, not too much, your glycan age also improves. If you do bariatric surgery. And something we haven’t published yet, we’re going to publish it very soon is, for example, that in women, estrogen is very important. So if you lose estrogen, your glycan age goes up, which we also see in the perimenopausal woman.
Gordan: So we’re trying to accumulate a lot of science, which will make people confident that by measuring this glycan age, you get information which is valuable, because I think there’s one key problem. And it’s a psychological problem. So we all know that if we live a healthy life, we will live longer and we will develop diseases later. So there was a huge study which says if you avoid four major risk factors, you will live 10 years longer and it will be healthy, distant years.
Gordan: So we know we can actually save 10 years of healthy life by living healthy, but people don’t do it.
Lee: Maybe even 15.
Gordan: Probably, 10 is an average. Maybe even more. Yeah, but people don’t do it. And people don’t do it because getting the reward in 20 or 30 years for an effort which you do today is not the way our brain works.
Lee: Yeah, cognitive bias.
Gordan: Yeah. We can always say, I’ll start next week. I’ll start in a year. I’m still young. I don’t have to worry about it. But if you think even about the smartwatches. You know, I have a smartwatch which tells me every hour, now you have to stand up and walk for two minutes. Easy, because we know this is a healthy thing. So I program my watch in that way and it’s giving me some kind of a start if I do it and if I don’t do it. And just this simple feedback saying you have two weeks of perfect track record, don’t destroy your track record by not standing up, actually helps me do it. So we need feedback.
High sensitivity CRP… is a little bit more informative, but it is still a more kind of what is going on at the moment. While glycans, IgG glycans, which are part of GlycanAge, give you a kind of cumulative information of what was going on in you in the last couple of years, at least.
Gordan: And what I think the glycan age can provide compared to genetic information, even epigenetic information at the moment, it can give us feedback whether what we are doing is making a difference. So I know for myself… So my primary problem for my glycan age is that I have few kilos too many. No horrible, but I have a few kilos too many. And when I lose them, my glycan age starts going down. And if I get them back, it goes back again. So I see that by eating, I’m hurting my glycan age. And I know because I do research in this field that these glycans, which are old glycans, are actually doing damage to my body, because old glycans do not have the capacity to suppress inflammation.
Gordan: So when we are young, our glycans are suppressing inflammation and this is saving huge amounts of energy. Because if we go back, what is inflammation? Inflammation is a response when there is… Usually there is a bacterial infection or there is some kind of damage to the tissue. And then we send our foot soldiers, which are neutrophils, and they go there and kill everything.
Gordan: And then you rebuild that part of the body. So it’s a kind of panic response. There is an attack, go there and kill everybody. This is what neutrophils do. And then you repair that part, but this is very expensive. First, you lose your neutrophils. You kill your own tissue. You have to rebuild it. It uses a huge amount of energy. And the process called the low grade chronic inflammation means that everywhere in the body, they are small inflammatory processes.
Gordan: And this is increasing with aging. If we can suppress this low grade chronic inflammation, and this is something that immunoglobulins do, we get huge amount of energy which we can spend somewhere else. And for example, it is known, and I even have some colleagues who do it… There is something called IVIG, intravenous immunoglobulin therapy, where people get immunoglobulins from other people, which are usually young injected in their bloodstream. And this suppresses inflammation. It’s used in some diseases, but also makes people feel much better.
Lee: Where can you get this therapy done?
Gordan: You can get in any hospital, but it has to be… You know, there are some indications for which you can get this therapy.
Lee: So it’s not like STEM cells, where you can go into Kiev, Ukraine and-
Gordan: Well I’m sure that there are some clinics where you can go and get it. I know in U.S. there are many different so-called plasma therapy. Plasma fractionation. I’m not really following that market. I know some of my friends who are physicians, they give it to themselves. Probably not-
Lee: Oh, okay. Okay. I just wondered if this was something we can do on a Saturday night in Zagreb.
Gordan: So the problem is, you have to get couple of hundreds of grams of these immunoglobulins. So you have to get this intravenous infusion and it takes hours. But I think now, I guess maybe there are some clinics doing it. I never really explored it because it’s a legal drug. You can get it. You just have to get the physicians who will prescribe it to you.
Lee: Okay. So there’s so much again there you’ve said. So you’re indicating that it’s, what I would term at least, very dynamic compared to other types of tests. Dynamic in responding to lifestyle and environmental change. You would agree that it’s very dynamic?
Gordan: So compared to, for example, epigenetic tests. Yes. But compared to CRP, no. So these routine biochemical tests can be way more dynamic than a glycan age. Glycan age is changing much slower.
Lee: Let me ask you something that is related, but maybe a tangent. When it comes to CRP, it appears to me this is just logic that everybody should measure hs-CRP, say every quarter, because if you begin on a disease trajectory, you will see that rise. So for example, I normally have hs-CRP 0.4. If I take certain types of liposomal curcumin, it’s 0.3. But if I was to see it go above one, and I know I’ve not had an infection, certainly if it hits, say 1.5, which many people have, I would begin saying hey, something untoward may be taking place in my body. Don’t you think that’s a super cheap predictive marker that something potentially harmful is taking place, instead of just the standard hs-CRP test. Like why isn’t everybody not doing a super cheap hs-CRP every quarter?
Gordan: So I don’t have the answer to that. So I agree completely with you. If this would work, this would be fantastic thing because it’s very cheap and it’s easy to do. We did several cohorts of people, and this was together with Oxford University, where we were comparing high sensitivity CRP to glycans as a predictor of future diabetes development. And the glycans were way more informative. Many people are analyzing the CRP and there are still no papers which are convincingly showing that this measure is actually useful in predicting outcomes.
Gordan: What is the reason for that? I don’t know. Maybe there is too much influence of some kind of small inflammations, which you might not be aware of, like small cuts or some kind of dental problems or anything else which would raise CRP. And then you would lose this baseline level, which is idea behind the high sensitivity CRP.
Gordan: I don’t know. It would be great if this would work, but nobody’s showed yet that this works. So one of the kind of dream I have is that, one day this glycan age, or IgG glycome, would be a routine test like HbA1C or CRP. And it will be done to everybody once or twice a year, because we know this is informative. The key problem here is that these glycan based tests are done on machines which are not available in routine laboratories.
Gordan: And this is what makes this real widespread use difficult. And this is what makes tests relatively expensive. This is not a cheap test. But one day when more information accumulates, maybe when we analyze 500,000 or 150,000 people, or maybe a million people, this will become more widespreadly used. And then… You know, because the reason that something is not cheap at the moment does not mean it is not good.
Gordan: It is not cheap at the moment because there’s no volume in tests, which would make them cheap. So my approach would be, let’s make a glycan test cheap, and then we will have something which we know it works, which everybody could do regularly.
Lee: Do you have… I’ve got a couple questions here. Do you see competition in the space?
And what I think the glycan age can provide compared to genetic information, even epigenetic information at the moment, it can give us feedback whether what we are doing is making a difference.
Gordan: There is competition. So as more people are becoming aware that the glycans are important, there are more and more companies which see this as their opportunity. So the way I deal with competition with my main company, Genos, which is the glycan analysis lab, we try to be better, faster, and cheaper than anybody else, which we are at the moment. So at the moment, we are not really threatened by the competition. For the glycan age, we do have patent, which is protecting the use of glycans for prediction of biological age. So there is some kind of protection which is stopping the competition coming into the market. But I think the biggest kind of advantage we have is that we are really the fastest and the cheapest and the most accurate lab to measure glycans globally.
Lee: And what about in terms of data acquisition? You’ve mentioned so many cohorts that it sounds as if you may also have acquired a significant amount of data that acts as a barrier to entry.
Gordan: Of course. Yeah. So we have glycans for 150,000 people. So I think that the second biggest lab in the world would have something like 10,000 people.
Lee: And they’re… Please.
Gordan: And we are accumulating more data faster than anybody else. So yes, this is a huge barrier for anybody willing to compete with us.
Lee: Okay. So you’re on a nice potential scale trajectory. You mentioned, I think you mentioned, dentistry. And so I saw my hs-CRP go to 0.8 and I know that’s still considered very low, but for me, it’s high. And so I actually went to the dentist and asked for an X-ray. And there was a pocket of inflammation in the gums. I was completely unaware. I had a minor operation. A scalpel was taken. It was removed. And yeah, within weeks, it was back to 0.4.
Gordan: Yep. So it’s exactly what you were saying and what I was saying. This is available information, but this high sensitive CRP would react to this small pocket of inflammation, which is not a major health issue while the glycan age is a kind of a cumulative of many such things. For example, if you would have extensive inflammation because of kind of serious dental problems, within a couple of months or years your glycan age would go up. So you could say that the kind of CRP could be maybe a more acute thing. You know, what is currently going on while the glycans on IgG and the glycan age is a kind of a cumulative, slowler moving measure, which tells you what is your kind of long-term state. We did one interesting experiment. Maybe this would relate nice to this. So I went to all my friends globally and asked them to send me a couple hundred samples of plasma from people of all ages from their region.
Gordan: And I collected 27 different populations from all around the world. And we learned that IgG glycans correlate extremely well with expected longevity. So for example, on Papua New Guinea, where, when this was collected, the expected lifespan was below 50 years. Glycans went quickly into the old age. The similar thing was in Uganda. While for example, UK and Germany, the glycans would take maybe two decades more to come to these old glycans than in some countries where people have a lower expected lifespan. So glycans kind of tell you how much of your healthy life you already consumed, which is a bit scary. But the good thing is, you can change them. So it’s good information to know.
Lee: That was actually the very question I was going to ask was… Hey, we could project lifespan into buckets of you’re going to have a long life, a short life or a medium life.
Gordan: When I look at-
Lee: Sure. Fire ahead.
one day this glycan age, or IgG glycome, would be a routine test like HbA1C or CRP.
Gordan: We haven’t done enough research to be confident to saying that. So we did this one study and we are doing more studies. We are looking into mortality cohorts. So samples collected before people die and then tracking how long it took until they died. But in principle, yes, it’s not zero one. You cannot put a timer and say you have five years, 20 years, 15 years. But it definitely puts you in high risk or low risk category depending on your glycans.
Lee: But it sounds like you can stratify people into having a long life or a short life.
Gordan: Of having a higher probability of shorter or longer life, yes.
Lee: Yeah. So, yeah. Probability. So you can stratify people into high likelihood of a short life and high likelihood of a long life.
Gordan: Yes. But there are tricks. For example, we are currently doing a study with a clinic in New York. So we just tested one guy that happens to own that clinic. And he was, I think, 38 years younger. And I said, “Wow, what the hell are you doing? How did you do it?” And he’s on a billion of different supplements. Unbelievable. And I said, “Okay, I’m not going to try all these 50 things you are taking.”
Gordan: “But can we do a research project? Can we do more of your patients to see what actually works?” And this is something we are doing in a moment, we are collecting his clients and we just bumped into another guy who is 40 years younger. So you can actually do some kind of biohacking magic and then move yourself from high risk to low risk. We still don’t know exactly what works, but we have a way of testing what works. So this is what we are doing at the moment. Trying which kind of those biohacking things actually work.
Lee: I’ve been playing with anti-aging molecular agents. Well, for over a year, I’ve spent quite a sum on them, like more than mortgage-type money. And so, yeah, I would love to see some kind of feedback. Is nicotinamide riboside having an effect? Et cetera.
Gordan: And we are currently doing a lot of research in that field. That’s extremely interesting because what the GlycanAge at the moment is giving you is just an information. It’s not the solution. It can just tell you: you have a problem, you don’t have a problem. What you are doing is working, you’re doing is not working. But if we could actually know what really works, and for now, the thing we know that really works is losing weight and taking estrogen, and also taking infliximab, but this is not something you want to do. And now we are testing, for example, with David Sinclair, we just got something like 600 mice he was feeding with all different magic things. So I’m really anxious to see how will this work out. And we are getting these people from U.S. who are taking different type of supplements. And the problem is that to really have an answer to a question, you have to take a sample before somebody start taking something and then after maybe six months, a year, and so on. So this is really demanding a setting of an experiment, but we are really trying hard to collect this information.
Lee: There’s a few more questions there. So are you aware of environmental pollution and its effects on people, like heavy metals and dental amalgams or from herbicides?
Gordan: We did a little bit of research. We did something with herbicides. We did something with environment. We haven’t really seen much, but I must admit the problem is that it’s very difficult to separate the multiple factors which act together. Living… For example, what we saw in one study, we did with mothers and newborns, that actually babies who lived in a rural environment were worse than the babies in an urban environment, which is crazy. We all think village is a healthy place, but apparently you get so much exposure to different herbicides, pesticides in the village, which is much more than in the city at the moment. So we need a lot, a lot of research to really know what works and what does not work. So it’s very hard to know without doing research.
Lee: Yeah. It would be interesting to know what the likes of glyphosate are actually doing. And again, I don’t know if you caught it at the start, but I should have a test kit waiting for me in the UK. I’ll send my blood back, and I want to stress this test kit was independent of this podcast. This came up completely separately. I normally check things out first before inviting people. So I’ll send the blood back when I get an opportunity. But from then on, you have my plasma, you have my data derived from that plasma. And it appears you will give me information back, what you’re calling a biological age, which seems more of a health score than what we’ve… Well, actually you’ve got a different interpretation of biological age that I completely get, and I do understand your notion that it’s actually more valuable. And so are you just giving me a onetime result or are you going to give me something over time more? Because you do have that data there and you may be able to reinterpret it better as time moves on and so forth.
Gordan: So the way GlycanAge works at the moment is that we sell subscription where you will get multiple tests, and then you will be getting comparison between the time points. And we don’t just give one number. We also give three important components of the GlycanAge. So we actually give four numbers and then you can track these four numbers. How do they change with time? We don’t have… So the GlycanAge is on the market for a very short time. So we don’t have many people with multiple time points, but yes, we have some people who have been tracked. I was tracked for five years. So we see the different components change in a little bit different way, depending on what we do.
Gordan: It’s not easy to interpret because it’s the cumulative damage over a couple of months, and you don’t know exactly what was happening in the last couple of months, but it definitely giving people a valuable feedback, and that’s the idea. So, ideally what we would be doing is you decide to try, I don’t know, NAD or NMN or whatever you are taking. And then you do a test before, you do a test three or six months later, and then say, okay, this is not working for me. Let’s try resveratrol. And then you take resveratrol. And then after six months you say, wow, this is working wonders for me. Or you lose weight, gain weight, whatever.
Lee: As I mentioned during a previous guest, Tom Stubbs of Chronomics. So once you get enough accuracy in there, you can start enabling markets. You can be the middle person who’s quantifying which interventions have which degree of success. And so you’re lubricating a market, actually. You’re bringing a market into existence because you’re taking products and you’re facilitating a meaningful exchange with buyers.
So glycans kind of tell you how much of your healthy life you already consumed, which is a bit scary. But the good thing is, you can change them. So it’s good information to know.
Gordan: Yeah, that’s a tough question. Actually, this is one of the routes we actually first tried. The problem is the majority of companies selling different types of interventions. They actually know they don’t work in all people, and some of them don’t even work in most of the people, so they don’t want to be quantified. So the incentive for evaluating the intervention will never come from a company selling the intervention. It will come from a buyer. So what we are actually trying to do is to give power to the buyer, to see whether something he or she is buying actually works.
Gordan: Because it’s like if you go and buy a used car, the salesman will say, “Oh, this is a fantastic, perfect condition car where there’s nothing wrong with it.” Nobody will give you an objective evaluation of what they are selling. So it’s a difficult thing. I had the same problem when we were trying to sell food traceability to confirm that a specific piece of meat comes from a specific farm. We were doing this with genetic tracking in my lab. And actually nobody wanted that because it’s not to their benefit. It’s the benefit of the end consumer who is not paying. So it’s difficult.
Lee: Obviously they could stick a label on whatever they’re selling, saying verified or certified.
Gordan: I know, but they can do it without doing the test. So you have a lot of companies selling the labels. This is guaranteed domestic, guaranteed ecological, so on. And it’s not always so.
Lee: Okay. I better move on because I would love more time with you. So, okay. Personal question. Alcohol. Have you noticed any connections with alcohol? And yes, I mention because I do have a particular passion for wine.
Gordan: So we don’t see a strong relation.
Lee: Good answer.
Gordan: I have a friend of mine who is doing research on wine, and he claims there should be a beneficial link, that drinking wine is healthy. And most of Europe thinks that drinking wine is healthy. So we didn’t see much benefit from drinking wine, but we also didn’t see any damage from drinking a reasonable amount of wine. So if you’re drinking too much, you’re always… Your liver… If you kill your liver, then you will see effect. But moderate consumption of wine is definitely not doing any damage.
Lee: That’s good to know. There’s a couple of wines in Slovenia, red wines, that locals claim enhances your longevity. So I’ve been drinking them, believing that it’s a supplement.
So you can actually do some kind of biohacking magic and then move yourself from high risk to low risk. We still don’t know exactly what works, but we have a way of testing what works
Gordan: I agree, good red wine will definitely increase your lifespan.
Lee: Now you mentioned four numbers. What are those four numbers?
Gordan: So one is the GlycanAge. So it’s the number of ages based on glycose, and there are three components called G0, G2, and S, which are names for different parts of the glycans we measure. So G0 means zero galactoses, there are no galactoses there. G2 means two galactoses, S means sialic acid. And these are three chemicals structures, which have a specific molecular function. So we know for example that if there’s no galactose, this immunoglobulin with activate compliment, and act through the lectin pathway. So it’s kind of promoting inflammation. While when you put galactose on sialic acid, it’s actually suppressing inflammation based on different molecular pathways. So it’s not that this is fully understood, but we kind of know, no galactose means more inflammation, adding galactose, adding sialic acid means less inflammation. But we separate these three components because they do not respond equally to different lifestyle therapists, and also in different people.
Gordan: So some people this G2 will change more, in some people S will change more. And the GlycanAge is then the composite index of these three. So actually the only thing… Well, the reason why we made GlycanAge is to simplify the IgG glycosylation analysis, because for science, we actually measure 70 components from the IgG glycome. But you cannot give people 70 variables and then start thinking which goes up and which goes down. So we kind of derived those 70 into four, actually into three, and these three into one. So people can either take a simple thing, like a number, or they can look at these three. And actually, GlycanAge also gives an opportunity to download the raw data. So you can see all glycans, how they look like.
Lee: You offer a consumer download, data download.
Gordan: Yes. And actually even in the report, we give the image of the entire glycome. So you can actually see directly in the report, or you can download your data. And the idea is also that some of the claims to which we cannot legally make, because we don’t have approval from the European medical agency or FDA, maybe some third party vendors could make a health benefit claims. Like for 23andMe when they were not allowed to give any medical interpretation, there were third party websites where you can actually download information and get it all. That’s one of the options we are thinking about.
Lee: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Pay the $99 for the basic ancestry test and then pay $10 elsewhere to get juicy health information.
Gordan: Something like that. Yep.
Lee: So I just went to glycanage.com now, and I want to double check because you’d said it was a subscription. I remember when I looked at it, it was not. And so it still doesn’t look like a subscription. There’s a yearly test, and if you pay monthly, it would end up working out costing more over the year.
Gordan: You take a subscription which includes one test. But then when you have a subscription, we offer people additional tests for-
Lee: It’s not mentioned on the website, just so you know.
Gordan: I know. So we sell a yearly test because people can get one test a year when they take subscription. But then we also offer a benefit of having more than one per year. You can have two per year, four per year, depending.
Lee: So that means if I buy one test, my subsequent test won’t be any cheaper.
Gordan: If you take subscription, your one test per year is covered with a subscription, but you will also get an offer from us to do additional tests maybe in six months, which would be cheaper.
Lee: But if I don’t take those offers, I’ll simply get billed the same every single year.
Gordan: Yeah. And you’ll get one test per year. Yep.
Lee: Hmm. It’s a little bit unclear, just so you know. It might be more of an incentive that the second test is a little bit cheaper.
Gordan: As I said, I’m a scientist. I’m not good in business development. I will convey your message to the business part of the company.
Lee: Okay. And is there any chance of a discount code for listeners? Being generated and I’ll put it in the show notes?
Gordan: This can be done. We can arrange a discount code.
Lee: Okay. I’ll put that in the show notes for anyone listening. And so let me jump back. When it came to-
Gordan: I have idea could be, we can say a discount code, but they have to listen to the whole podcast. So maybe we can make a… You’ll say the secret word, we’ll make that word into a code.
Lee: Okay. We’ll make that secret word right at the end of this. Okay. And so jumping back, I looked at telomeres, I was concerned I may have some significantly short ones. I don’t mean average. I wasn’t concerned about the average. I figured it would be okay. But I was concerned I may have a number of critically short telomeres. So I went and measured with Life Length in Madrid, Spain. And yes I did. And so I’m always looking for my weakest link because that’s what will take me out. So I figured having some critically short telomeres nowadays is probably one of my highest risk factors of mortality, morbidity. And so then I started taking TA-65, and I retested a year later, and I rolled back my biological age, measured via telomere length, by 18 months. So although I aged 12 months during that time, I went backwards by 18 months. And so do you… I consider telomeres very important. Can you say anything about the relation between telomeres and glycans?
Gordan: Okay. I have problems with telomeres. So telomeres are protective mechanism, how we are preventing our cells to convert into a tumor cell. So telomeres are kind of a timer which allow a cell to have a specific number of divisions before they wear out and the cell cannot divide anymore. So the stem cells would have the ability, this telomerase activity, so they can extend the telomeres so they can divide forever. While the differentiated cells are losing this ability, and the telomeres are shortening, and eventually the cell has to die.
Gordan: But the problem is that it is very difficult to translate the telomere length in a subset of cells, which you measure, from the whole organism. So there were decades of research in telomeres, and I think the final conclusion paper was on a couple of hundred thousand people, which more or less said that any change in telomere length is not associated with any health outcome or risk. So whether your telomeres are getting shorter or longer, it doesn’t really change your risk of anything. I can send you a paper if you want. It’s a huge paper, hundreds of thousands of people. And actually-
Lee: Sure, we’ll link to it in the show notes.
Lee: We’ll link to it in the show notes.
Lee: I’ll get it from you.
Gordan: And the other problem is, if you have genetically longer telomeres, it’s actually risk to get a cancer because telomeres is the safety measure, safety tool against cells living forever. Because cell living forever is a cancer if it divides uncontrollably. So I-
Lee: I have heard these arguments, but the last guest on the show, Liz Parish, I think you’ll be aware she did gene therapy on herself to lengthen her telomere length. And obviously the question was raised: hey, will this increase likelihood of cancer? And I followed it for quite a while and concluded no, it was more the opposite, but I’m totally open. And we’d love to know more and keep discussing.
Gordan: So I’m not in the telomere field. I was just following this as a kind of… I’m a professor at university, so I have to explain some things to the students. And I kind of stopped when this huge study completed, that the change of telomere length does not predict anything. And I think the key problem is when you do a telomere length on a person, is that you’re looking at telomeres in your blood cells. And the composition of cells in your blood depends on what is actually happening at the moment. So if there is some kind of inflammation, then they divide more.
Gordan: And actually the stem cells, which are kind of behind all those cells, they’re not in the blood. They are in the bone marrow. So you are, by measuring telomeres, giving a snapshot of the cells, which currently circulate in your blood. And even… Well, if you look into the large projects of aging, I think they all gave up on telomeres. And now all the research of biomarkers is focusing either on proteomics or epigenetics or on glycans. And these are the three key components which are currently being used. I think telomeres are kind of out of the game.
Lee: What I’ll do is I’ll invite, I think the CEO of lifelength.com is Steve Matlin, if I remember correctly. I’ll invite him as a guest, and we’ll see what he has to say. So did you say that you’re working with David Sinclair?
Gordan: Just we collaborate by… We do the glycan analysis on some of the intervention studies he does. And we published I think one or two papers together. Yep.
Lee: And in terms of lifestyle, I raised alcohol, heavy metals, this type of stuff. I personally am of the belief, and I stress belief, that fasting is the greatest intervention that the majority of people can do for health. Have you saw any information, data, on the effects of fasting and glycans?
Gordan: So I fully agree. I think that this… So what we know is that the microbiome affects glycans. And we did one study where there was a fecal microbiome transplant. And if you get this healthy microbiome, your glycome also becomes better. And the other end of the spectrum is that glycans determine the microbiome because the problem in modern society is that we eat too much and too often. And when we eat too often, our guts are always full of food. And this is like leaving a soup on a kitchen counter overnight. What happens, bacteria grow there. And the same thing is happening in our guts. So if the food is always there, then any aggressive bacteria, which is fast in consuming this food, will multiply. But if we empty our guts, so if we fast for at least, I don’t know, 12, 18 hours a day, or maybe for a longer time occasionally, then our guts are empty and only bacteria which can graze on the glycans or our endothelium survive.
Gordan: So fasting gives us a chance to select which bacteria we want to have in our microbiome. And this is a basic evolutionary mechanism. So until a hundred years ago, nobody had the problem of too much food. So we were simply not equipped to cope with bacteria, which grow in all this excess food. So I think fasting is something which is essential for keeping the healthy microbiome, which then reflects out on a healthier glycome. So I agree completely.
Lee: That was super interesting. And there was a lot I would have love to broken apart in there, but I’ll have to leave for now. But you were saying that the microbiome effects the glycans, but you’re also seeing the glycans affect the microbiome. Was it two way?
Gordan: Yes. So, well, we have to separate the word glycans from the word GlycanAge test. So GlycanAge test is just one component of the glycome. So our guts are covered with glycans. These are different glycans. GlycanAge is based on IgG glycans. These are surface musings where they’re actually the way we feed bacteria. We give them these sugars, which reproduce and feed the bacteria we like. And then these bacteria make vitamins on whatever we need and also fight the bad bacteria. And in the same time, by having the healthy microbiome, this is reducing the inflammation, which then is also reflected in a healthier glycome.
Lee: I suppose you’ve heard of small intestinal, bacterial overgrowth: SIBO.
Gordan: No, sorry.
Lee: Okay. I’ll link you to it. This was something brought by a previous guest and I suspect some kind of link there, again, with glycome. So I’ll in the show notes. I’ll also ping you an email. When it comes to insulin and glucose, those appear to me to be, I would say, the primary driver of aging and chronic disease. And so do you see a connection between insulin and – or stroke glucose – and again, glycans?
Gordan: So the basal level of insulin is highly correlated with the IgG glycan. So yes, these two things correlate. I agree that consumption of too much carbohydrates is probably one of the big problems we have in our diet, but we still haven’t done sufficient research to claim. But as I mentioned, just at the moment, we have a thousand people on four different diets. So we’ll be much smarter a couple of weeks.
Lee: It would be really good to see if there is a connection between vegetable oils, what we should call industrial seed oils, and glycans.
Lee: I suspect traditional oils are good for you, which we were told. But for as motor and veg oil is actually exceptionally toxic to our health.
Gordan: So the problem is that usually these things are confounded with physical activity, other environment, social conditions. So it’s not easy to do a cross section analysis. It would have to be kind of intervention study. People starting to change diet and then we look for an effect. It’s not easy, but we are really trying hard to find any cohort of people who did this type of intervention and to also add the glycan information to that study.
Lee: Okay. And are you aware of any connection with ketones? Because I don’t say we should always be in a ketogenic diet. In fact, I would say “no”, unless it’s an intervention to drastically lose weight, but I do strongly believe that having the presence of a reasonable level of ketones relatively frequently in your life is very conducive to health and longevity. So if you notice… Are you aware of any connections with ketone fueling and glycans?
Gordan: This is the same thing actually, because when you have low glucose, then the body converts to the ketone metabolism and then produces this small ketones, which then are being used by the muscles and the brain and so on. So I think it’s… I’m not sure that the ketones themselves do something. I think it’s just the different type of metabolisms. Just burning carbohydrates, which goes directly first to glycolysis and then into the Krebs cycles or just using the ketogenic food, which does not do glycolysis, and then it just goes into the Krebs cycles and actually glucose is being made by gluconeogenesis. It’s the different metabolic pathways in our organism, which then again is different from people to people. Not everybody’s the same.
Gordan: And we did… We have a collaboration with a company selling the drug, which limited glycosylation. A derivative of the 2DG. And for example, they know that this would not combine well with the ketogenic diet. So people are different and we have to be careful in giving in a kind of a general statements because for some people this might not be good and we still have to learn much more to see… To be able to predict which kind of a diet would fit a given person.
Lee: Okay. And I see we’re running out of time, so I better speed up once again. You mentioned estrogen and menopausal women and I… Okay, another “belief” of mine. I luckily have testosterone that is literally labeled high by the labs. I’ve been presuming that’s a great thing, even though I’m 44 and it’s not stratified by age and I must admit my functional age, I would say is exceptional. And so do you see any kind of connection with testosterone?
Gordan: So we published a paper, I think three years ago in a study, in collaboration with the Harvard, an additional US lab, where people were chemically deprived of both testosterone in men and estrogen in women. And we do see effects. So the sex hormones have very strong influence on glycans. Although it’s not clear whether it’s directly… Some of the… Because you know, they do get converted. So it’s still complicated, but we see an effect. We published one paper on the topic. We are about to submit a second one. Though, that one is only with the estrogen and females, and it’s definitely something worth exploring further.
Lee: Okay. Let me try and throw in a couple last, two questions, and then I’ll ask you how people can actually buy the product and where it’s available, et cetera. And because COVID-19 is a hot topic and because there’s a significant amount of misleading on misinformation out there. And I would contend a lot mainstream media is propagating it. So it’s not just social media. You said you’re doing something with Bergamo. What is it you’re doing there?
Gordan: It’s not only Bergamo. So what we are trying… I think the key question we having COVID now is, “Can we identify people who are at high risk?” Because obviously, the large proportion of people, maybe even 99.9% will not have any major problems with this virus, but some of them will die. And we have seen this in Bergamo. We have seen this in New York. We’ve seen this in part of Spain and France, even in London recently that people are dying of this virus, but it’s only a subpopulation of people. And what we are trying to do is we are trying to identify a molecular biomarker, which will tell you, “Are you at high risk or not?” Because if we would have a tool like that, then only people at high risk would have to be protected, would have to be isolated while the rest of the population could treat the COVID as a common cold.
Gordan: So I am not claiming that we have it. We just got the first cohort of patients. We have planned to analyze over 3000 COVID patients in total until the end of the summer. Not only from Bergamo, but from Barcelona, from Tehran, from several other cities. And maybe we’ll find a biomarker, but we don’t know yet.
Lee: Well, I wish you luck with that. Obviously you’re aware that what basic biomarkers, like a CRP, et cetera, you can do… You can quite clearly have some degree of prediction who’s vulnerable, with basic blood biomarkers today.
Gordan: Yes. This is when somebody comes to hospital and this is determined the level of inflammation in the moment. What we are trying to find the person in a steady state before infection and say, “You don’t have to worry,” or, “You have to be very cautious not to get infected”. This would be an idea.
Lee: I appreciate that. I would say at the moment, the best you may have is for example, insulin resistance. The level of that would be good, and I don’t think is accurately measured in the population.
Gordan: This is one thing which really correlates, but the problem with all those correlations, they’re not high enough to be able to tell people, “You are safe”. For example, even the extreme obesity, BMI over 40, bears only maybe two and a half times higher risk. Uncontrolled diabetes is also maybe two or three times higher risk. So it’s still not sensitive enough to identify one in a hundred or one in a thousand, which are at high risk. So, as I said again, I’m not claiming glycans will do it. I’m hoping they will, but we will know more in a couple of weeks.
Lee: Well, I am going to be tracking that. I hope you would ping me the outcome of that. Cause I’m extremely interested in COVID risk biomarker.
Gordan: So I’m posting everything on Twitter and LinkedIn, so…
Lee: Okay. That’s great. One more question before I actually ask about the product purchasing. You mentioned the future… Prediction of future disease, and in particular you mentioned heart attack or stroke. And since heart disease is the number one killer and half the people who have a heart attack end up dead. It’s very important to be able to predict heart disease and strokes. And so can you say anything on that prediction, the prediction quality, why you think it’s predictive and any lifestyle modification factors you may be aware of?
Gordan: So now we’re on a shaky ground because making any kind of health claims would require authorization from the regulator. What I can say that we published a large study earlier this year in diabetes care, I can send you a link where we do show that a single glycan in woman is more predictive than the entire AHA score for the heart attack and stroke. It’s not zero one. It cannot tell you, “You will have heart attack in next two weeks,”, but it is more predictive than anything else we have. And we are currently trying… And this was a large study. This was 27,000 people collected 30 years ago. 500 of them got heart attack after they were sampled. We currently have in my lab, 4,000 people from two studies in US where we also have over a thousand people with incident, heart attack and stroke. So we are doing more research, but it does seem that this is quite predictive. Cannot make any health claims at the moment, but I hope we will be able to do it in the future.
Lee: And do you see any connection with lipoproteins, cholesterol levels and glycans?
Gordan: So we did one study where we were looking at the lipoprotein function and we saw that the changes in cellulation of apolipoprotein is actually affecting its function. So by changing the glycosylation of the lipoproteins, you are changing the function of those. And actually they either gain or lose the ability to it was… We looked at HDL, so it was either gaining or losing the ability to pick up cholesterol from the membrane. So I think glycosylation is also very important there, it was predictive of atherosclerosis. We are still doing research in this direction, but definitely there’s also something about the glycosylation and the lipoprotein function.
Lee: But that was only HDL, right?
Gordan: We looked at HDL. So…
Lee: I thought you also look at LDL or…
Gordan: In that paper, we just looked at HDL.
Lee: And so what you’re probably saying is the sugar and high insulin damages the lipoproteins?
Gordan: It’s more complicated because we’re looking at the glycosylation, which is the enzymatic process.
Lee: So what kind of processes and what causes it?
Gordan: So glycosylation is the process of making glycans. It’s affected by sugar level, for example, but it’s also highly affected by genetics, the genes, the epigenetics, and so it’s more complicated than just having the high sugar level. It’s… There are multiple components there. For example, some people would just be genetically putting less sialic acid acid on HDL, and then their HDL would…The HDL would be less functional. So the cholesterol trafficking would be different. So it is complicated. It’s not that we can easily just measure and see what is actually going on.
Lee: Okay. We definitely can cover it as a last quick fire question then. So in terms of the product itself, I thought it was only a ware in the UK market and I’ve obtained one, but I haven’t picked up yet. And as we were talking, I looked at the website and it says global shipping. So this is global.
Gordan: Yes, it’s available globally. Initially we didn’t have a technology of analyzing GlycanAge from the bloodstains [blood spots]. This is why we started just locally in London. It would just actually London, not UK because then we had to work with the frozen plasma samples, which were a logistical nightmare. Since maybe six months ago, we switched to the dried blood stains. So you can go to the glycanage.com, buy a set from anywhere in the world. We ship the set, you collect the samples, return it by mail and be analyzed. So it’s a global product now.
Lee: And you can get the same level of quality from a dry blood spot?
Gordan: Yes. We invested over two years of research to find the way, how to get IgG out from the dried blood spot, because glycans are chemical structures. They’re quite stable. The problem was getting IgG out because when you have a dried blood spot, but many proteins denature and they cause troubles, but we invested a lot of work and yes, we can do it now from a dried blood stain.
Lee: Okay. So in terms of a discount code, you said you’d provide one to listeners. So a key word, maybe it’s a little complicated, but I think I would like to go for “TRUE”. T-R-U-E. BIOAGE. So “true” with the “bio age”, all one word [truebioage]. Do you think you could set that up?
Gordan: We can set it up. We can go and get a 15% discount for the next two months.
And what we are trying to do is we are trying to identify a molecular biomarker, which will tell you, “Are you at high risk or not?” Because if we would have a tool like that, then only people at high risk would have to be protected, would have to be isolated while the rest of the population could treat the COVID as a common cold.
Lee: That sounds perfect. And a final, final question. In terms of customer data, what kind of protections do you have in place? Because when it comes to health information, they seem to… Everybody wants to know how it’s stored, how it’s… The compliant procedures, et cetera. Personally, I’m not concerned, but it seems many people are.
Gordan: I think this is extremely important question because personal data should mean “personal”. And I don’t think people should profit out of the other people information. And since I’m primarily a researcher, we always follow the strictest ethical guidelines. And I’m not an expert in IT, so I don’t know how it is being done, but we are really trying hard to protect the data that nobody can actually steal it from us. And I don’t know, try to do something.
Lee: Are you selling it to third parties?
Gordan: No, no. We never did it. We never will do it. It’s not our business model to sell the data. What we are trying to do. We are trying to help people by giving them a tool to quantify what is going on. And we also have an option of not giving us any data. You can just buy a test and not give us any data, but then you cannot come to us and ask, “What should I do?” So actually the only reason why we do collect some data is that when people come to us with the question, “Why is my GlycanAge bad?”, we can look into data and say, “Okay, maybe this could be the reason”.
Lee: Okay. Are you looking for outside investment?
Gordan: The GlycanAge needs to grow because, as you said at the beginning, you’d never heard about it. And most of the people didn’t heard about it. So yes, we are currently looking for people who would help us grow because we do have a product. We have all science behind it. We are doing science also independently, but we need help in growing. So we are looking for help.
Lee: I’ll see if I can help you with a little bit of matchmaking there. So I know you told me you’ve got a hard cough and I see I’ve overrun slightly. So I super appreciate you taking the time. I’m delighted with what we’ve covered. I didn’t have high expectancies all along because hey, I get many messages. I have been becoming more and more aware of GlycanAge in a positive sense. This is only further underlined that for me. This is something I’m taking seriously. I very much look forward to the results of my own test. I also know someone quite close who also ordered the test. And so it will be interesting to see what her results are. And if anybody would like to get in touch with yourself, what channel do you recommend?
Gordan: Sending me an email may work, unless there are too many emails on that given day, especially in the COVID pandemics. I am very hard to reach, but emails is probably the best way or just contacting the company and then they have a way to get it to me.
Lee: Okay. So probably the best option here is just to go to glycanage.com and find a contact means there, which I think is Intercom.
Gordan: Yep. I agree. That would be the best approach for the moment, because in this pandemics, we are all too busy, at least people involved in trying to find a solution for the pandemics.
Lee: Okay. Gordan. I very much appreciate your time.
Gordan: So thank you for your efforts. It was nice chatting with you and I hope you learned a little bit more about glycans.
Lee: I learned a lot and I hope… I think it’s just the beginning and I think we’re going to be chatting for some years to come. Ciao.