March 25, 2013
[04:59] What Makes Heather's Blood Testing Kit Different
[07:50] What Happens with The Samples
[14:32] The Use of Running These Tests
[22:05] End of Podcast
Ben: Hey, everybody! It's Ben Greenfield here, and I want to tell you guys a quick story. I was in San Francisco a few weeks ago, and you may have heard me mention this, but I was at a conference called “Biohack Your Life”, and this was Dave Asprey's conference down there where we were really delving into a lot of cutting edge tips, and techniques, and tools for enhancing your performance, enhancing your health, self-quantification, testing, stuff like that. And I happened to meet actually, at a dinner on one of the nights when we were down there, Heather, who happens to be the person who you see in the video next to me right now. And Heather has a really cool background and she showed me something during dinner that literally blew my mind, because I'm big-time into this whole test your biomarkers, know what's going on inside your body, be able to optimize your biology by having a really good finger on the pulse of what's going on with your body, and Heather just completely blew me away with what she knew and understood, and actually had developed when it comes to this stuff. So, this is going to be a really, really cool video for you guys to be able to see. So, Heather, thanks for coming on.
Heather: Thank you, Ben. Thanks for the great introduction. Well, I'm glad that you're excited. I'm also very excited. We have put together sort of something I think that's really empowering for a lot of different communities. And I…
Ben: I'm totally going to interrupt you really quickly.
Heather: Yeah! Interrupt me…
Ben: Because you're being humble. So, I'll talk for you.
Heather: Well, I'm Canadian. That's part of how we do things.
Ben: You're like an MD, PhD, or something like that. Right?
Heather: Yeah. So, I just finished both doctoral programs together. So, this was an extended, I did a PhD in Vancouver and then I finished my medical degree, actually, this year as well. And having that experience over many years, it gave me a lot of opportunity to observe the way we were doing things and opportunities to sort of maybe speed things up and maybe even empower people in a way that's different than the traditional establishment in what medicine does. I think everyone can agree that the system is working as hard as it can, but it's a little overwhelmed with our hunger for knowledge right now. Like everything, we can read online about ourselves. And what I saw when I was training was that while we carry the stethoscope around and we sort of do a lot of traditional practice, 80% of the decisions we make, actually, come from blood tests that we do. And often, you get into the hospital, somebody listens to what's going on with you, and then triages you to certain set of blood test.
So, I sort of thought that was interesting and I came across some technology that had been around for many years, but it hadn't been really implemented in the way that we're doing in. Basically, I'll introduce to the way this works. It's an at-home blood test that you do. You order a little kit from us online, so, it's just a little package like this. Everything that you need comes inside this package. And this includes a little lancet that you use to prick your finger, and I can show you how to do that in a second, and you collect a couple of drops of blood on this little card, and you let it dry for 15 to 20 minutes, and then you stick it in the envelope that's in that kit and you mail it to us. And we are going to run for you virtually everything you can get from a lab that you'd have to normally go through, visit, go into a clinic…
Ben: That's what I wanted to get into here. Because, don't get me wrong, I have tested with probably almost 10 different companies in terms of trying out all these different test kits that you can get sent to your home. So, I've really geeked out on this stuff, and one of the things that you have to do is you have to go fill up tubes of blood at your local lab, and drive, and basically go out of your way and also bleed a lot to get a lot of these values. And what you were showing me was this tiny little card. Now, what I want to understand though is how you can do that, and everybody else is having to go and give tubes of blood at a lab?
Heather: That's a great question, and we get that a lot. I want to preface by saying that seeing your physician and going to get lab testing is still essential. What we're offering is here is sort of like a front line set of blood tests that don't replace the services that you have with your physician. That's really important and everyone knows that, obviously. Right? The reason we can do this is because something that not everyone realizes, in North America particularly, you've probably already used one of these cards when you were born. There's a requirement right now that when a newborn baby is born, we take a heel prick, and we put the blood on this very card, and we analyze it with a mass spectrometer, which is what we use for different potential metabolite disorders, which could kill you very quickly when you're born. So, this technology actually exists and it's been used in a way that's very sort of a yes/no answer. So, you get that test done when you're born and we'd know, “Okay. You have this dangerous condition and we know what we treat you.” What's happened with mass spectrometry which is we're using, is that in the last five or six years, the technology has just made some significant improvements so that we can now not just get a yes or no answer from this, we can get, “Wait a minute. You're at 50 nanograms per deciliter of that molecule.”
So, it's what we call quantitative now. And it's been in this sort of this slow progression of that technology, and there's other things that have to do with more about the medical system and how it works. They collect large tubes of blood from everybody because they don't know exactly what you've been ordered to have. And so, they just collect everything and then they run specifically what is needed from you, and they might need serum, or they might do different things with that sample, and we know what we're going to do with this. So, we just basically collect the blood one way, and we don't need very much. So, it's kind of to do with the historic if you look at medicine, that way it's worked, and it sort of gets a system set up and runs at that way for many decades and doesn't change very quickly, and combined with this technology, just sort of taking some leap frogs in the last couple of years.
Ben: Gotcha. Okay. So, for all the health geeks out there, let's talk about those five different circles that you showed me with the blood drops. What happens after I send that to you? What do I find out?
Heather: So, we basically punch those circles of the card. We do little three millimeter punches, and we prepare that, and then run into our machine. And right now, we're optimizing our system for a set of 17 blood tests to be ready by this summer. So, everyone that's ordering cards right now, sending them into us from all over the world, actually, we have those stored and date stamped, so we know what your blood reading is going to be from that date in the past.
Ben: What you just said, I want to interrupt you. You said people are sending this to you from all over the world. So, let's say I've got a bunch of triathletes down in, whatever, New Zealand or Australia who are watching this video. They can actually do this?
Heather: So, what's kind of an incredibly powerful aspect of this, which is sort of subtle is that instead of needing necessarily a doctor's office, not to replace physicians, I'm not going to say that we're doing that, but in some cases, let's say if you're looking at vitamin levels or hormones, these kind of things, you don't necessarily need a lab nearby or even what we call the cold chain. So, refrigeration system that reaches out to the remote communities. What you need is a mailbox and internet access. We send you this system, and you send it back to us, and we send your result anywhere in the world. So, we're talking about giving a large portion of the planet the opportunity to learn this type of information in that I'm really excited to finally offer.
Ben: Cool. So, what is it? Vitamin D, cholesterol? You said 17 things. And I think when you were talking to me at dinner, you were saying that this could potentially expand to be hundreds of things.
Heather: Right now, off a single drop, we are shooting for the three estrogens. So, estradiol, estrone, that group. Progesterone, testosterone. We've got cholesterol, CRP, homocysteine. We've got vitamin D3, all the B vitamins, vitamin A. All the vitamins, basically, that everybody knows about. I'm probably missing a couple. They're all on our website, on our [0:10:22] ______ packs. So, if you want to buy, we have a $99 deal where you can pick five of those, and you get a card, and you can basically pick out of that whole list what you want us to run. And then we also have a Gold Card subscription that's really been popular where you get 24 or 36 of our cards and every test that develop in the next two or three years, depending on which package you get, you will get automatically run off your card. This machine can see hundreds of thousands of things off of these drops. One drop, actually. So, we are in a slow process now where we tool up our equipment for each test, and that takes a little bit of time. And once we have that running though, we just roll that out as a new test that you'll get if you want it or as part of the subscription.
Ben: So, basically, if I were going to get one of the cards, whatever, the 24, the 36 months of testing, I could test every single month if I wanted to?
Heather: Yeah. We make it flexible. We have different types of users. So, as a guideline, you can do a monthly test for three years or you could do all of them in 30 days. We're doing things like cortisol. You might have a personal interest in like, “I want to do an experiment with this.” So, we did one, as an example, we had a bunch of very high cholesterol foods that were deep fried, chicken nuggets and this kind of thing, we ate this meal. And for 10 hours, every hour, we took drops from separate cards and ran that and watched the cholesterol double from baseline an hour and 15 minutes or so after that meal, which really, no one has to my knowledge demonstrated. I've never heard of it because you'd really have to sit in a lab [0:12:21] ______ just to show that. And so, we're doing that with all different types of foods. We started doing…
Ben: So, I could do Ironman Canada this year and I could test hsCRP, fibrinogen, interleukin, testosterone, and I could do that for every day for 21 days after the race and see exactly what happens to the body every day after doing an Ironman triathlon?
Heather: That's exactly the type of use that we're hoping to see. And we want to know, actually from you guys, what you want us to build into our system. We have an option, if you have a test you want us to run that no one in a lab anywhere has set up before, but you're interested in that molecule, we have an option, a designer pack where we will build that test for you. Give us about three weeks to set it up and dedicate it you and you'll get that test for that year, like you don't pay for it. Basically, that's exactly the type of data that, I mean, I think this is much more powerful than people realize. Because what's going to happen is you're going to figure something out and you're going to start sharing that you did that. And then all of a sudden, I'm going to learn, like, “Okay. Yoga is what I should do every day,” or how often I could do it. The cycling or whatever it is that I want to do to optimize my performance, or reduce my cortisol, or what it does to my hormones. So, it kind of becomes very addictive and it's just access to what's happening inside me on a regular basis. It's very personal and it's very accessible, and our whole platform is like, play with this. I can't even think about what you guys might want to do. I just, I'm like I can see that this is very useful.
Ben: You don't want to know how fast my mind is spinning right now. Like, I could take one of my clients, and just write out their entire training routine, and test them for a week and see exactly what their blood in their body is doing every single day based off of that specific routine to know if that's the one that's going to be perfect for that one.
Heather: This is what I think, exciting is also you guys are at the front line of this type of discovery. What's great for me is I did a PhD and it was really interesting to look at how we do research in our society. But I think in this era of social, we're going to get a lot more information by just giving people the information they need and play with it and share it. That will unburden, I think, a lot of the scientists. There's probably 10,000 of them working on a given problem in the world at one time. Imagine if you had 50,000 athletes, all highly motivated, studying this at the same time. It's citizen science, it's research and crowd-based. And it's fast.
Ben: Didn't you guys do an alcohol test too? I'm putting you on the spot. You don't have to talk about this in the video if you don't want to 'cause it'll become public.
Heather: I can't think of it as anything inappropriate about it, but I love red wine and I have favorites. Sometimes, if you have a little more of your favorite wine, you kind of feel it the next say… So, I was curious about a type of wine that I like. So, I drank, actually, quite a bit of it in one sitting. I won't talk about how much. So, I drank quite a lot, more than I would normally have definitely in the name of science. And I tracked every hour for 48 hours, as I was drinking this wine and then sort of like as I tried to recover from drinking it. And what I've done is frozen all of those cards, so, I have almost 50 cards there. And what I'm going to do is look at the alcohol level in my blood, what was happening with my alcohol dehydrogenase, the whole sequence of chemistry that goes on when we ingest this stuff. And each wine is actually different. So, how my liver responded, because you do get a little bit of liver inflammation or liver damage that happens when you drink, and just sort of really pull out from that particular wine what happened. I'm just curious if there's other wines that maybe would have a different effect. Or other alcohols. It's kind of a fun thing. We're looking for volunteers, even, to sort of use our cards in this way.
Ben: As long as the wine comes with the card.
Heather: Yeah. I know. We could talk about that. That could be interesting [0:17:27] ______ connection. What's really cool is what you can do with food. Because frankly, the moment you eat something, your body is awash with what you've just had. And so, we never really get a chance to sort of see that. I now have a hard time looking at some of the foods that we saw cholesterol changes in. I don't eat them. But there's also a lot of debate about cholesterol. So, I don't want to comment because there's very good and less good cholesterol.
Ben: You're able to even do something like look at particle size if you're using a spectrometer, right?
Heather: Yeah. We can drill all the way into fatty acid, the components of all these foods and how, we're going to visit some folks at a big paleo conference coming up, and they're very excited. And there's a lot of…
Ben: Is that Paleo f(x)?
Heather: Yeah. This the conference coming up.
Ben: I'll be down there.
Heather: Oh. Excellent. Yeah. So, we'll be out there. People really feel strongly about certain diets and certain life choices they've made. And what we're kind of pumped about is we're going to give them a very empirical tool that they can use to basically prove what they're talking about. Yeah. So, it's exciting! And I play with [0:18:58] ______ too. Yeah.
Ben: I love stuff like this. Well, what I will do is, if you're watching this video right now, I'm going to put some more information about Talking20, which is the name of this testing service, underneath the video so you can kind of see some of the stuff that you could get tested, and some more details, and where you can get the tests and everything like that. If you're watching this on YouTube, just click through the URL that you can see underneath the video. Yeah, I think this is super cool stuff. And if you have questions, you can leave them as a comment as well and either Heather or myself will go and respond. But I'm pretty excited about this, Heather, and I want to thank you for coming on the video and doing the show and tell.
Heather: Yeah. And what we'll do too is we're going to throw up a discount for everybody watching. We're going to do a 10% off for everyone that hears this. We'll put it up for about 2 months. It's BENSTEST, all caps. So, BENSTEST, and we'll do a 10% off. And on our Gold Card, so that can be in the hundreds, I think, if you calculate it. Like just over a hundred bucks off. So, we'll get everybody in on this. And if that helps, it's been really fun to sort of hear about everyone's ideas. We also love to get e-mails about what tests people want as well ‘cause this is a frontier. These molecules, I mean, we know, in the hospital, we study a classic set of 50. But there's all these derivatives of all these molecules. So, there's kind of a lot to look at and begin to study, and I think it's going to be really interesting and really fast once people get a hold of it. So, yeah!
Ben: I like it, I like it. Alright! So, folks, I hope that's helpful for you. And again, this kind of stuff is cutting edge. I mean, being able to get a glimpse into what's going on inside your body and being able to do something like get, whatever, a package and being able to test every single month and know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, what's going on, what are my cortisol levels, where's my testosterone at, all this stuff is just incredibly useful to be able to drive your diet, be able to drive your physical activity, your rest, your stress control, what you're doing is taking all these different things that you're doing in your life anyways and figuring out if they really truly are affecting your biology. So, it's cool stuff. It's not just for geeked out propeller hat guys like me or MD, PhD geeks in disguise like Heather. This is stuff that can help a lot of people out. So, check it out. And I'm Ben Greenfield and this is Heather from Talking20 signing out.
Heather: See you, guys!
I'll admit it.
I'm a total self-quantification nerd.
You know this if you read my article “A Crash Course On Finding Out What Is Happening Inside Your Body“, in which I tell you about a ton of different blood, saliva and urine tests that you can do.
So my nerdy self is super excited about this new thing I've found called “Talking20“, which we talk about in the video above and I give you the nitty-gritty details on below…
Basically, Talking20 is disrupting health as we know it by merging biology with technology to deliver personal health data in a way that I think may actually trigger a personal health revolution.
Here's how it works:
You send in a few drops of blood on one of their kits, and you’ve opened the gateway to everything happening inside you, anytime you want it. Talking20 is using mass spectrometry to analyze its blood samples, the same technology used by NASA and the Environmental Protection Agency use to conduct their studies of very small samples taken from all over on (and off) the planet.
Using this technology, Talking20 will eventually run 100's of blood tests off a single, convenient drop of your dried blood.
The instrumentation and techniques of mass spectrometry earned Nobel Prizes in 1922 and then again for advances in 2002. In short, the way mass spectrometry works is that blood collected on the cards is hit with an accelerated dose of electrons. During this collision, the molecules being measured are knocked out of the sample and pushed into a gas state. This accelerated beam of gases is then passed through a magnetic field, which allows each molecule to be measured based on its unique properties. This technique can be performed with solar wind samples collected outside the Earth’s atmosphere (like at NASA) – or from samples collected on Talking20’s special filter paper.
Each biomarker that is tested at Talking20 must be specially calibrated in house and each test is currently being built in a stepwise process. The “Gold Card panel” that Heather and I talk about in the video above is made up of several well known tests, such as cholesterol and vitamins, but over the next three years they are developing literally hundreds of other tests you can get off one card.
I think this stuff is going to literally blow the roof off personal biohacking and the ability to peer into your personal health and performance in real time as you test anytime, anywhere in the world.
Examples of tests they are planning to include are:
- All organ function related proteins, including current and future indications of organ function: liver, kidney, pancreas, autoimmunity problems and more.
- All vitamins and minerals, including all fat and water soluble vitamins, and circulating minerals, amino acids, electrolytes and more.
- All hormones, including cholesterols, cortisol, testosterone, DHEA, estrogens, progesterone and more.
- All disease proteins, including current and future indicators of cancers, such as colon, prostate, breast, kidney, lung cancers and more.
- All future biomarkers they ever discover, which are included in your future panels at no extra cost.
How To Test With Talking20
OK, I know you probably want to get down to the bottom line and know what this kind of stuff actually costs and how the process works:
- You go to the Talking20 websiteand order one Gold Card package, which includes all test materials and all online services, and is good for 36 separate tests(3 years worth if you test, say, ever month).
- This Gold Card packageretails at $1295 USD (but you get a 10% discount if you use code BENTEST, which lowers this to $1165).
- Compared to conventional phlebotomy laboratory testing, the life of this package will provide over $150,000 worth of blood test, for $1165. Dang.
Obviously this isn't pocket change, but if you want in on every test that is developed over the next three years, and you don't want to pay any extra for any of those future tests, this is a no-brainer – or at least a very nerdy and fun experiment for any biohacker or someone who simply wants to find out more about their body at anytime, anywhere in the world (watch the video above to hear my wheels spinning about how something like this could be used).