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B. A Biological Marker May Help Detect Disease Earlier in Older Populations

Narrator: This is Science Today. A new geriatrics study has identified a biological marker that may help prevent functional decline and premature death by serving as an early identification of disease in at-risk, older populations. Dr. David Reuben, chief of the UCLA geriatrics department, who led the nationwide study, says this biomarker is called interleukin-6, or IL-6.

Reuben: And IL-6 is what they call a cytokine. Cytokines are very important in fighting infection or inflammation. There's a whole cascade of events that happen from the time that you have an infection or an injury that cause inflammation. And inflammation is our body's way of fighting infections - it's our white cells, it's one of our most important defense mechanisms.

Narrator: High levels of IL-6 have been linked to chronic inflammation and functional disability in older people.

Reuben: Through this study and other studies that we and other people have done, we're be able to detect something going on in otherwise healthy-looking older people that says that maybe all is not right.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.