Category Archives: Theranos

How to Get Cheap Blood Tests

It is a shame that the vast majority of people who take Finasteride or Dutasteride to combat their hair loss never get blood tests to measure their hormone levels pre-medication and post-medication. I am one of those people and wish that I had kept an annual log of my various hormone levels while I have been taking Finasteride 1.25 mg once every two days for a majority of the past ten or so years.   There is no guarantee that these medications are always working, and there have been some recent rumors that certain generic versions of Finasteride reduce DHT levels less then non-generic versions.

The main reasons that people do not bother to measure their hormone levels regularly are 1) laziness/inconvenience and 2) the expensive nature of these tests.  For example, some years ago I asked my doctor how much a blood test to measure my DHT, estrogen and testosterone levels would cost, and the answer was a combined $500 for the three tests.  In addition, you have to pay another $100-200 just to see a doctor so that he/she can then refer you to some expensive affiliated lab for a blood test. Total ripoff.

For peope taking finasteride or dutasteride, the hormones to focus on when getting blood tests are (top 3 = the most pertinent):

  1. Dihydrotestosterone (DHT)
  2. Estrogen — various ways of measuring
  3. Testosterone — various ways of measuring
  4. Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH)
  5. Luteinizing Hormone (LH)

Luckily, blood test prices are no longer that high if you decide to avoid the doctor and the hospital lab and instead go to private walk-in facilities or purchase kits that you mail back with your blood drawn at home.  Some of the below listed places might not have locations in your city, and some might not be reviewed online as frequently as you desire, but it is still worth checking  them out. Self-diagnosis and taking healthcare into your own hands is not the future of medicine…it is the present of medicine.  If you have any kind of esoteric medical problem, your 1,000 plus hours of internet research and internet forum participation oftentimes makes you far more of an expert in that particular condition than some doctor who has to focus on keeping up with developments in dozens or even hundreds of medical conditions.

LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics — A Duopoly, but How Much Longer?

In the US, by far the two largest companies offering diagnostic lab services are LabCorp (LH) and Quest Diagnostics (DGX).  Typically, when your doctor sends you to get a lab test at a local facility, your results are then sent in to one of the above two companies. However, there are now much cheaper options if you avoid the doctor from the get go (see next section).  Moreover, Elizabeth Holmes and her company Theranos will change the whole game entirely if things go as planned (see second section below).

Walk-In Clinics Where You Can Get Low-Cost Blood Tests

Below are some examples of clinics in the US that offer blood tests that are significantly cheaper than at regular labs.  Unfortunately, most of the below places still end up using the services of LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics, but at least its a lot cheaper this way than going via your doctor’s referral.  Some of the below have special offers every month.

LifeExtension –> DHT test = $50

Walkinlab –> DHT test = $60

Directlabs –> DHT = $169

Anylabtestnow –> DHT = $309 in my city!

The Other Liz: Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos, the Coming Revolution in Blood Testing

A few months before I wrote about BioViva’s Elizabeth (Liz) Parrrish, I had been contemplating writing about Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos fame, but never got to it till today (although I did cover Theranos as part of several monthly “Brief Items of Interest” posts).  Ms. Holmes founded Theranos in 2003 at the age of 19 (!).  The company has developed a way to extract just a few drops of your blood from your finger via pinpricks and then conduct over 240 blood tests (and counting) on those few blood drops.  Moreover, via a partnership Theranos has now started offering these tests at Walgreens’ Wellness Centers in select parts of the US, and will expand nationwide and then internationally in the near future. These tests will generally costs a fraction of what they cost at the labs I discussed earlier.  Moreover, since Walgreens is omnipresent in the US, we are not far from a time when every single one of us can get a blood test for cheap with just some pin pricks right at our next door Walgreens.  This will represent a medical revolution.

The Battle of the Liz’s

Ms. Holmes has garnered 1,000s of times more publicity and media coverage in the US compared to Ms. Parrish, although the former has been in the news for a significantly longer time than the latte. Ms. Holmes has managed to get numerous ex-politicians on her company (Theranos)’s board of directors, giving her influence that Ms. Parrish can only dream about.  The most famous of these ex-politicians is Henry Kissinger.  Interestingly, while Ms. Parrish is a vegetarian, Ms. Holmes is a vegan.  While Ms. Parrish has a bachelor’s degree related to Biology (and she has been criticized for not having any further advanced degree), Ms. Holmes is a Stanford University dropout from the Chemical Engineering program.  Ms. Holmes has become the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire (current net worth estimated at $4.6 billion), while Ms. Parrish is probably not even a millionaire yet. Both are female CEOs, a rarity.  Both are very well spoken and photogenic, the latter of which is unfortunately often a bit too important for success in the western world.

In the long run, what Ms. Parrish is doing is far more important than what Ms. Holmes is doing, but the only problem is that there is a decent chance that Ms. Parrish’s gene therapy procedures might not work, or even worse, could be banned if someone dies during the initial human experiments (especially if other semi-medically knowledgeable qualified professionals start recklessly following Ms. Parrish’s example with dangerous untested therapies). Nevertheless, it is absolutely wonderful that Ms. Parrish could likely accelerate the start of an era in which humans taking their healthcare and their bodies into their own hands and ignore the government (or find ways to bypass the government — e.g., get things done in Colombia or Congo or preferably Japan in the near future).

On the other hand, what Ms. Holmes is doing is far more likely to work and has in fact already been proven to pass government requirements in several cases. Due to the company’s stealth mode operations, things are not entirely clear as yet, but my intuition tells me that the company’s proprietary technology works.

Theranos — A Week of Bad Publicity

The biggest problem with Theranos has been that it is extremely secretive as to how its technology works.  Since the company is currently privately held, it has been able to largely get away with this — until this week when the Wall Street Journal published a critical article on Theranos, accusing the company of not using its technology for many of the tests, as well as implying a number of other issues with the company.   Elizabeth Holmes was not pleased with this, and strongly defended her company yesterday.  Virtually all major media has been covering this story, ranging from the New York Times to Wired magazine.

My feeling is that Theranos will get through these difficulties.  It already has one blood test (Herpes Simplex) cleared by the FDA, and is hoping to get 120 others approved in the near future.

Unfortunately, while Theranos currently offers Estrogen and Testosterone blood tests, it offers no DHT blood tests for us balding Finasteride and Dutasteride imbibers.

Brief Items of Interest, July 2015

Hair loss news first:

Histogen filed form D for equity financing and raised about $10 million in funding.  The filing took place on June 29th, but I read about it in a new July Bald Truth hair loss forum thread. Nothing too interesting or impressive other than the company name and its significance to us in the hair loss world. Glad to read that Histogen is still kicking.  The octafinance website states that biotech companies usually sell around three-quarters of their offering, but Histogen managed to sell 100 percent of its offering, which may be a sign of investor trust and confidence.

— An interesting study (on humans and not mice) from Japan about the increase in sebaceous gland area (but not size) in patients suffering from androgenic alopecia.

— I discussed Dr. Carlos Wesley and his  revolutionary PiloFocus  scarless hair transplant surgery last year after he was profiled in an excellent article in the Verge magazine.  Dr. Wesley has now managed to get detailed coverage in the prestigious BBC website’s future section.  Great article yet again.

More favorable feedback on ARTAS, including a video.  Dr. Thomas Griffin seems like a sincere doctor.  I like his description of the newly added PRP at his practice: “what we’re trying to do is maximize our results for our patients.”  Some doctors will delude patients into thinking that PRP means guaranteed hair growth.

And now on to medical items of interest:

— Fascinating article on CRISPR DNA editing.

— Some hair loss sufferers who take Finasteride complain about getting gynecomastia (man boobs) as a side effect.  Usually, this side effect is transient or minimal, but in some rare cases, it can be quite bad and lead to major growth in breast size.  Several weeks ago, Reddit user Wulfgar1  started an ask me anything (AMA) about his gynecomastia surgery.  He included quite impressive before and after photos, and answered almost all of the 100s of questions that were asked of him.  Note that Wulfgar1 had gynecomastia since the age of 12, so his man boobs were not due to taking Finasteride.

— A Chinese girl suffering from hypertrichosis (an extreme level of excessive body hair) is raising funds for laser hair removal. A bit unusual that the least hairy race on earth has such cases.  Also see the ending to my post from last year on whether Asians are more evolved than other races.

— A good summary of 30 futuristic breakthroughs that happened during the first half of 2015.  I like the heavy focus on medical breakthroughs rather than on less interesting breakthroughs that will just give us better, faster, cheaper or newer “stuff”.

Theranos’ fingerprick blood test gets FDA approval.  This company is likely to revolutionize blood testing in the coming years. Also this month, the company obtained FDA approval that will lead to at-home testing.   The company’s CEO Elizabeth Holmes is the youngest female billionaire in the US.  Theranos is a very secretive privately-held company, and its Board of Directors is filled with retired government officials, including major ones such as Henry Kissinger and William Perry.  I wonder if companies that are working on a hair loss cure should try to get politicians on board and if that can helps garner faster FDA approval?

— Non-medical, but nevertheless worth a mention:  3D printed house in China assembled in 3 hours.  And it looks decent!