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Home Ben Greenfield Corner The Future of Diagnostic Testing Could Be In One Drop of BLOOD
Ben Greenfield Corner

The Future of Diagnostic Testing Could Be In One Drop of BLOOD

From podcast:

[00:00:00] Introduction

[00:01:13] Another episode with Dr. Matt Dawson

[00:02:56] The use of ketones

[00:06:33] Epigenetics and methylation testing

[00:19:51] The three tests at Wild Health

[00:28:51] Creating actionable recommendations based on data

[00:37:44] The heart disease studies – intermittent fasting and niacin

[00:40:14] Changes in personal life and approach to patients

[00:44:48] The use of advanced diagnostics and other tests and tools

[00:50:22] Closing the Podcast

[00:52:29] End of Podcast

[00:53:26] Legal Disclaimer

Ben:  My name is Ben Greenfield. And, on this episode of the Ben Greenfield Life podcast.

Matt: I think it’s important maybe to talk about why aging is important because I think some people see it as a vanity thing. We value youth so much in our society. But to me, it’s not about that like age is the number one risk factor for basically every disease. If you look at the top 10 diseases that we have; cardiovascular disease, cancer, dementia, the things that are going to kill us, age is by far the biggest risk factor for all 10 except for motor vehicle accidents. It’s not just for a little bit. It dwarfs smoking, obesity, diabetes. So, I want to know what your pace of aging and your biologic age is because of that, because of your risk factors for getting those diseases, and just your health span in general. So, that rate of aging is a really critical measure for me. Not just how good do you look. 

Fitness, nutrition, biohacking, longevity, life-optimization, spirituality, and a whole lot more. Welcome to the Ben Greenfield Life show. Are you ready to hack your life? Let’s do this.

Ben: He’s back. Dr. Matt Dawson, good friend of mine. One of the most forward-thinking, cutting edge, so-called Precision Medicine doctors I know. Meaning, he uses advanced diagnostics to dig really deep into the body. We’ve had some fantastic shows in the past about executive screening panels and what he does at his company, Wild Health. I’ve visited him at the castle down there in Kentucky a few times, in Lexington. And man, his understanding of functional medicine and, now, increasingly, genomics. We’ve had a few chats about everything that he’s doing as far as looking at epigenetics and DNA methylation testing. I’ve just realized I really have to get Dr. Dawson back on the show to talk all-things diagnostic testing, epigenetics, DNA methylation, machine testing. Starting to sound like a pretty geeky podcast on that.

Matt: It’s going to be geeky, for sure. I can guarantee that.

Ben: Well, if people are concerned and grabbing their Post-it notes, don’t worry. I’ll put all of the shownotes over at Although, inside baseball, Matt, you’ll like this. This is how I take notes during a podcast. 

Matt: A little high-tech.

Ben: Yeah. It’s super high-tech. For those of you not watching the video, I’m holding up my teeny tiny Post-It note stack that I write furiously on while I’m walking on the treadmill. Matt, I got to ask since I know you’re nerded out on bone broths and smoothies, and I always eat such good food when I’m down there hanging out with you in Kentucky. Have you had anything to eat yet today?

Matt: I have. I had to. I’ve had had the same thing that I eat every day for lunch. That’s two cans of Matiz sardines with guacamole pickle juice and some pickles. It’s delicious.

Ben: That sounds a little bit like ketogenic meets Mediterranean, man.

Matt: Yeah. No, that’s true. Yeah. The two cans of sardines today. An amazing amount of omega-3s, I think like a couple [00:03:18]____.

Ben: Yeah. It’s called the keto-Med diet. You know, I actually went outside my boundaries, my normal, smoothie boundaries this morning. Because somebody gifted me a pineapple. And, normally, I don’t do a lot of fruit in the morning, you know. My smoothie is typically a little bit low carb, kind of keto-ish. But despite me usually blending up pineapple and using it as a meat marinade, because as you know, Matt, like all the enzymes in the pineapple really help to break down meat. It’s actually one of the best meat tenderizers out there. I made myself a frozen pineapple, vanilla protein, coconut water smoothie. And dude, it was like an orange creamsicle. I’m pretty happy about it. I’m going to tuck that one away into the smoothie database. 

Matt: I thought — honestly, I thought your glucose looked a little high when you first came on video. So, that’s making sense now, yeah.

Ben: Yeah. You know the hack for lowering glucose from a nutritional standpoint if you’re not using blood glucose disposal agents like berberine or using lifestyle strategies, like jumping in a cold bath or lifting weights. Like a way you can literally plummet it down into 50s or low 60s.

Matt: How do you do it?

Ben: Take a shot of ketones.

Matt: Oh, nice.

Ben: It kind of like artificially suppresses glucose.

Matt: Yeah. So, I actually had ketones today, too. I forgot about that. So, deltaG Ketones. I’m really into this company and this potential kind a new type of ketones. It’s a seems —

Ben: Why is it a new type? I’ve heard of them before, but is that like a monoester, you know?

Matt: So, I’m just digging into the science. I had somebody recently say, “Hey, you got to check out this company. They’re doing really cool things.” And so, I got — actually, the company reached out and they sent me some as well. So, I am not as deep scientifically as I should be on it. But according to their research, what I did see is there’s some really cool research they had on athletes; specifically, rowers, and those are really cool. When you look at like kind of their power output over time with these ketones versus no ketones or kind of most ketones you buy, there was a really cool — their power just kept increasing. Like, kind of at the 20- to 30-minute mark where, normally, the same folks as a crossover trial would drop off. And again, I don’t know the mechanisms yet, so I shouldn’t have brought it up. 

Ben: Yeah.

Matt: But just seeing the graph, I’m like, “I got to try that.” So, I did a workout, rowing workout, this morning, and I definitely felt great.

Ben: It’s probably an ester, you know. I like the fact that a lot of ketones are becoming more commercially available and affordable. You know, and they’re using like Ketone I.Q. HVMN. They’re using 1-3 butanediol, and that’s good. It’s less expensive and allows you to get into ketosis. But from a pure performance standpoint, even though they’re way more expensive, some of these ketone esters where you have that same molecule the butanediol bound to beta-hydroxybutyrate. You get really high levels for a longer period of time, and that might be what deltaG’s doing. I think that’s also what KetoneAid does with their ketone.

Matt: Yeah. It’s on my list to dig into it, but I wanted to just try and see how it felt first, so.

Ben: Yeah. You’re making me think I should probably interview Dominic D’Agostino again sometime soon. He’s always on the cutting edge with that stuff.

Matt: The ketone king.

Ben: Yeah, yeah. So, you know, we always have these interesting phone discussions. And our last one, you told me about how much you’re getting in to this idea of methylation testing and how much you kind of think it’s the wave of the future, as far as diagnostics. So, what got you so interested in it?

Matt: Yeah. And so, and this is something that I’ve really changed my mind on. In the past, I think I’ve looked at biologic age testing, in general. That, and you get biologic age tests through DNA methylation testing. I looked at it as more of kind of a party trick. Like, okay, if you’re somebody’s 40 chronologically versus 36 versus 44 biologically, I’m still going to try to optimize them. So, kind of what is there to do. And I wasn’t that interested until kind of the last six months when I started digging into like how you really get these biologic age/ages and what you can do about it. There’s so much more resolution, and it’s just — we’ll talk specifically about things like EBPs, epigenetic biomarker proxies, and methylation risk scores. But I think, first off, the biologic age tests now are finally good enough to where we can actually tell something from them about what to do and change patient management and outcomes. So, I’ve just gotten really excited over the last six months digging into that science. And I see so much on social media about biologic age testing. I think there’s so much confusion. I think we just were talking and I was like, “We really should probably address this with kind of an update into what’s out there right now.”

Ben: I mean, it’s absolutely confusing according to the wide range of telomere tests, pace clock tests, glycation tests, et cetera. My chronological age is 42. My biological age according to these tests is 8 years old, 22 years old, 42 years old, 47 years old. And I think I got one that told me I was 55 years old. 

Matt: And you may have sent them all the same day.

Ben: Yeah.

Matt: Like, the first generation clocks, I mean they were not good and not useful in my mind. But I mean I believe in them so much. Just about four or five months ago, we started doing them. Just included in the Wild Health program for every patient when they start, and then repeat testing at six and 12 months because I really think they can tell some great information that we can actually do something about now. 

Ben: Okay, cool. I want to know about the kind of tests that you’re running and the data that you’re getting out of them. But backpedaling just a little bit, how would you define epigenetics and DNA methylation testing? You know, I’m sitting next to you on an airplane and you’re dripping saliva into a tube, and I ask you what you’re doing. 

Matt: For sure. So, I think most people who have listened to your podcast, you’ve talked about epigenetics before. I mean, the word is kind of around genetics or above genetics. So, it’s not actually your genetics. So, at Wild Health, every patient we see, we sequence their DNA; that’s your human operating system. But that’s only about 20% of your health outcome. Like, when you’re going to die, how much health span you’re going to have, how you feel and perform. The other 80% of that is based on everything that you do, epigenetics. How you turn those genes on and off, how you express those genes. So, that epigenetics, the 80% of your health outcome, that’s what DNA methylation is measuring. Looking at 950,000 CPG sites, for example. Like, the tests that we use and you get an incredible amount of information from that. And what they can do is they can correlate these CPG sites. How much they’re methylated, or not. How much they’re turned on or off.

Ben: And by the way, Matt, what’s a CPG site again?

Matt: Sure. So, cytosine phosphate guanine, is what it stands for. So, it’s a specific place in the DNA strand that is methylated, which keeps that gene. And how methylated it is depending on will determine how much you’re expressing that gene. So, if you have good genes versus bad genes, you talk about a [00:10:19]____, you talk about these other genes, you can turn those down or up based on what you eat, how you sleep, what you’re exposed to. Like you’re walking right now, that’s changing how you methylate your genes. Everything that we do turns these on and off. And now, we can actually, very specifically, measure that. And we can get incredible information. I mean, there’s a couple interesting studies looking at smoking pack here. Like, if I ask you how much you’ve smoked in your life, you tell me. When there’s one study where they looked at taking a drop of blood, looking at DNA methylation epigenetics, it’s more accurate than what you said about smoking. They can tell what ZIP code you spend a lot of time in based on pollution markers. So, you can impute an incredible amount of data, and biologic age and rate of aging is just one of those things that you can tell. It’s really, I think the Holy Grail of testing where most diagnostic testing, and actually I said the word “grail.” So, that grail, the Galleri test, the cancer test, a lot of people do that.

Ben: Yeah.

Matt: That’s DNA methylation testing. So, it’s I think it’s where all diagnostic testing is going to go in the future. What you can tell really depends on the size of the data set and your imagination.

Ben: Okay. You got to explain this to me. Because if I give — I’m assuming this should, I say saliva or blood, in the case of the type of testing you’re doing.

Matt: That’s actually a really important question. Blood. So, there are saliva tests, but there’s just not as much studies and validation around them. I actually don’t really trust any company that does saliva testing. So, blood testing is what I’m talking about specifically. 

Ben: Okay, okay. Good to know. So, I give a drop of blood and, you know, let’s say I smoke or don’t smoke, and I send that blood off, you’re saying that they could determine how much I’m smoking based, or not smoking, based on that blood test. How’s it even work? Are they taking what they see on my blood and comparing it to big data from a large population of people who smoke or don’t smoke and seeing how my blood markers match up to that, or is it something else?

Matt: No, that’s exactly right. So, like some of the bigger, best biologic gauge tests which we can talk about, like one is out of Harvard, and they have a 100,000 patient biobank. So, you can take those patients. They have the medical records to go with them. So, they know everything about them; their diseases, when they die, all of their other risk factors, and able to find. So, I’ll give you one example that kind of makes this clear. Neurosyphilis, for example. If I’m worried that you have neurosyphilis.

Ben: I’ve been worried about that for a while, that I have neurosyphilis.

Matt: Yeah. I was going to talk to you about it after the show. But if I was worried about that, it’s usually misdiagnosed for a few years. But if I finally want to make the diagnosis, I got to send you to the hospital, you get a lumbar puncture, $5,000 complications, a difficult test. Cornell is doing a study right now where they take several hundred patients, take a population that has neurosyphilis. They take a control population. They take a drop of blood from each, look at these epigenetics, and they can find the fingerprint by looking at those 950,000 sites and how you’re expressing your genes. Because everything you do creates these cascades of hormones and things that cause you to express your gene in a certain way. So, it’s finding that fingerprint of what is neurosyphilis, and then you’ve got a drop a blood test for neurosyphilis, for example.

Ben: Okay. So, would this be similar to what they’re using for that Rejuvenation Olympics website, you know? Like, the leaderboard that shows how fast or slow certain people are aging. I just interviewed Julie Gibson Clark. Like, the house mom who plays pickleball and, you know, I think she takes like maybe under a hundred bucks worth of supplements, and she’s towards the top of that leaderboard and beating out a lot of these billionaires and entrepreneurs who are doing all these fancy biohacks. But the DunedinPACE, I think, is the name of the database or measurement protocol that they use for that. From what I understand, they just followed thousands and thousands of people and measured their grip strength, and their risk of mortality, and cardiovascular disease, and all these parameters. And then, when people send in their blood they’re basically seeing where those people fall into based on this large subset of data that they’ve collected from a large number of people. Is that very similar to what you’re talking about?

Matt: It is. And that’s my favorite biologic test. So, that was Duke developed that, and it was from the Dunedin cohort. It’s out of New Zealand. Really incredible data set. They followed these people over 50 years. And so, that gives a rate of aging. So, that’s exactly, right. So, Rejuvenation Olympics’ Bryan Johnson is behind that competition, globally. They use the PACE test for sure. That’s the one that they use. And I think it’s important maybe to step back, and then to talk about the specific test just to talk about why aging is important. Because I think some people see it as almost a vanity thing. We value youth so much in our society. But to me, it’s not about that. Age is the number one risk factor for basically every disease. If you look at the top 10 diseases that we have; cardiovascular disease, cancer, dementia, the things that are going to kill us, age is by far the biggest risk factor for all 10, except for motor vehicle accidents. And it is not just by a little bit, it dwarfs smoking, obesity, diabetes. So, I want to know what your pace of aging and your biologic age is because of that, because of your risk factors for getting those diseases, and just your health span, in general. So, that rate of aging is a really critical measure for me. Not just how good do you look.

Ben: Well, I would maybe throw snowboarding accidents in there with another category that might not be associated with aging. You know, the young punks out taking psilocybin and marijuana, and blasting down the slopes. But besides that, yeah. I mean it makes a lot of sense. The idea of what you can get from these tests though. You use smoking as an example and neurosyphilis, which of course everybody, as we’ve established, is concerned about, what are some other things you’re seeing coming back that you’re surprised by, as far as like the data that people are finding out about themselves?

Matt: Yeah. And I should be really clear. Like, those things I was talking about are kind of a little bit future state, like there’s not the test for neurosyphilis. There’s just a study going. Just kind of an example of the data you can give, can get. But what you could do right now is the aging, with your biologic age and your pace of aging. The reason why I think it’s important to talk about now is in the past, those tests weren’t good enough. The first generation clocks, like the Horvath and Hannum, and a lot of those clocks. You already mentioned the reason why. It’s all over the place. Like the Horvath clock, for example. If you were to send the same test on the same day, the mean absolute error is about four years. So, you could have a four-year difference in the same day. So, as a clinician, that’s not really useful to me. I need something that if I want to test at six months, it may not be 4 years older or younger just because of that mean absolute err. So, the new clocks are doing that. And like the Horvath clock, for example, it used 353 CPGs. So, that’s a pretty small subset when we can look at 950,000 CPGs. So, the newer clocks have much better mean absolute err. 

You mentioned the PACE. The PACE is incredible, and the error on that is about 0.5%. So, extremely accurate. So, when you get a change there, you know it’s from something that actually happened. And when they look at those original clocks too, for example, the Horvath clock, if it is increased by one standard deviation, that’s only about a 2% increased risk of mortality. But a one standard deviation increase in the DunedinPACE, this one developed by Duke, increases mortality by 64%. So, it really correlates to disease and health span. And then, you got to when you look at these clocks, they have to pass sniff test as well. Meaning, when you look at the Horvath clocks, when they tested them against things like calorie restriction, which we know tends to increase health span for pretty much every species, those would actually increase the Horvath clock calorie restriction. 

But with these newer clocks, the three that I like; one out of Harvard, one out of Yale, one out of Duke, those correlate really well with interventions that we know should decrease. So, the new clocks, they have better standard deviations or standard err, they correlate with disease and mortality much better. And the biggest thing too is this kind of so-what factor. Like, what do I do with it I mentioned earlier I don’t care if you’re 44 or 36 biologically if I don’t know what to do about it? And that’s what I like about the three tests that we use now that I think are really, really good and I’m happy to dive into those.

Ben: Yeah. I’m curious what the three tests are. But before you dive into those, you hear people talking about VO2 max; about grip strength, about walking speed. You see some articles about balance or the ability to get up from the ground with as few limbs as possible efficiently. Do you know how those would compare to one of these blood screenings? Is this blood screening kind of like even beating all of those when it comes to predictive data?

Matt: I mean those are great. So, I haven’t seen head-to-head comparisons. I do know grip strength VO2 max, those things really correlate really tightly with health span, and morbidity, and mortality. But I think they do because they’re kind of an integrator of things. Like, your grip strength and VO2 max, like to have a great grip strength and VO2 max, you’re doing all the things that you need to get there. You’re lifting heavy things. You’re doing high-intensity interval training. You’re doing all the cardiovascular training. So, those things are great predictors, and I think they’re really important. They’re functional things as well. It’s not something that I can follow as perfectly and get as easily as from a drop of blood test, for example.

Ben: Okay. So, you said three tests that you guys are doing at Wild Health. What are the three tests?

Matt: Yeah. And again, it has to have really tight error bars that can’t be all over the place. And it needs to be some resolution, and I need to be able to do something about it. So, Yale has one that they developed called Symphony Age. And with it, what I like about it, is it actually gives you an age, not just an overall age, but organ system age. So, your brain age, your heart age, your liver age, your lung age. And so, that gives me some idea, as a clinician, as to what to work on with you. Because it’s really kind of your weakest link that’s probably going to get you. So, I like that, that Yale test.

Ben: Wait. So, what you’re saying is instead of just getting my biological age, it’ll break it down and say like, “Here’s how old your heart is. Here’s how old your liver, your brain, your dick,” et cetera?

Matt: That’s exactly — I’m not sure if there’s a dick age, but the other ones, yes. 

Ben:, coming soon.

Matt: Yeah, yeah. And the way they did it, they trained that against to 130 biomarkers. So, it’s the data set you’re training again, which is, again, which is important, too. So, they looked at 130 biomarkers are training it against to get those. Just like I mentioned, the Harvard age — the Harvard one is called the OMICm Age. That’s a really interesting one, and we’ll say pays for less, because I think it’s my favorite. The OMICm Age from Harvard, this just came out in the last six months. And they have a massive data set. Again, they have 100,000 patients in their biobank. But they did proteomics, metabolomics, they looked at all the biomarkers, they looked at the EHR phenotypic data. So, all of these OMICS, they trained it against to get a really good age. 

What is cool about that though is they uncovered this other thing called epigenetic biomarker proxies, that they talk about. So, they have about 4,000 of these. So, because — like I mentioned in the neurosyphilis, you can kind of impute that and find the fingerprint, they also kind of find the fingerprint of CRP levels. So, they can tell you an imputed triglyceride level, A1C level, CRP level. So, they can give you kind of these 4,000 different biomarkers.

Ben: By the way, without you actually going to the lab and doing a CRP analysis or another blood analysis, you’re getting all of that from the single blood spot.

Matt: And that’s why this is the future of diagnostic testing.

Ben: Wow.

Matt: Absolutely. And when I first started looking at this, and if someone digs into this, what they’ll find is your CRP you get is not the same as the CRP you get from Labcorp, for example. It’s not going to be perfectly perfect. But what I found is there’s a really cool study where they looked at CRP graft against cognitive impairment. Because the reason we care about A1C, CRP, triglycerides, is because of its effect on disease and how well it correlates to disease. So, they looked at CRP and cognitive impairment, they graphed them, and the scatter plot was all over the place. CRP didn’t correlate with cognitive impairment, which was confusing because inflammation should. Then, they graft the DNA or methylated DNA, or the methylated CRP, the EBP for CRP, against cognitive impairment, and it was great. There was a very strong correlation. In fact, the EBP for CRP was 6.2 times more predictive of brain imaging outcomes than the blood CRP. So, while these EBPs are not the exact — so, if someone gets one gets this test back and they see an imputed EBP of hemoglobin A1c that is 6, but with the Labcorp one is 6.7 or 5.3, they’re going to like, “Okay, this is not good enough. It’s not useful.” However, it may be that it’s more predictive of outcomes and it’s measuring biologic effect. So, just like I don’t care about your spot glucose, I want your A1C because it’s an average over time. The EBPs may be more an average over time that correlates potentially even better. Now, that’s not been proven with all of them, but the CRP example makes me think that there’s really something there with these EBPs.

Ben: Why is it that you think something like methylation data that shows CRP score versus a direct measurement of CRP would correlate better?

Matt: Well, because if we just get your CRP — frequently, we see this in patients all the time. They got have an elevated CRP and we’re worried they have inflammation going on, but it turns out they just did a hard workout right before. Just like if I got a spot glucose, your fasted glucose, you may have had a cup of coffee that spiked your glucose. Or you may have gotten scared, and the cortisol spiked your glucose.

Ben: Yeah. Or a pineapple smoothie.

Matt: Exactly. But that doesn’t mean you’re walking around with a glucose that’s high all the time. So, it’s more of an average and the biologic effect of CRP than your actual CRP.

Ben: Okay. So, it’s almost a little bit similar to like the hemoglobin A1c, three-month snapshot of blood glucose, sometimes being a little bit more, I guess, little bit better analysis of your blood glucose than a single snapshot in time.

Matt: For sure. Yeah. A1C is much more predictive of, do you have diabetes or not, than just a spot glucose is for that exact reason.

Ben: Okay.

Matt: And so, since I can with the Harvard OMIC image with that report, I get all these EBPs. There’s useful information. Like, when I got my report back recently, I was really low in an EBP for carotenoids, and that has a significant effect they found in this Harvard study on biologic age. So, I knew then there’s something for me to do. So, I have the OMIC, Age, I don’t care that much about it. I then look at the EBPs and there’s information there clinically of what I can do. I ordered a carotenoid supplement. I started taking them. And then, I’m going to test my pace score again and see if it makes a difference.

Ben: So, you got Symphony, you have this Harvard OMICm Age. And those are the first two?

Matt: Those are the first two that I like. Because there’s resolution and there’s something to do about it.

Ben: Okay.

Matt: And then, the PACE, which you already mentioned. That one is my favorite for a very specific reason. One, it’s very accurate, it’s repeatable. You’re going to get a good score if you send the same test two in the same day. You’re going to come back very tight; 0.5% error there. But also, because what I would to do is in of one studies. So, I have patients all the time say, “Hey, what’s the perfect diet for me?” And we’ll look at their genetics, their DNA, their blood work. We’ll talk to them. We’ll try to make an educated guess. But human physiology is complicated. So now, what I do is if someone wants to try a vegan diet, or a carnivore diet, or someone says, “Hey, I want to go get IV stem cells in Panama,” well, that’s 40 grand or however much it is. So, if you’re going to do that, and you’re doing it because you want to reverse aging, let’s measure the outcome. So, before someone does a big experiment like this, we’re going to get a PACE test, see what the rate of aging is, let them do the intervention for a few months, and then repeat it. 

You probably saw the Stanford Twin study, where they randomize these twins to vegan or omnivore diet. Really crappy study. But they used the PACE test in that. And they did find that switching your diet, they certainly could see differences in their PACE score over time to find which one is slowing down aging versus speeding it up for these individuals.

Ben: Which one won out in that study?

Matt: So, the vegan one did. But I don’t think it was good science. Like, when you look at the vegan diet, they just ate a lot less calories. So, to me, it was a calorie restriction study.

Ben: Oh, they didn’t even control for calories?

Matt: No. And there was so much they didn’t control for that just made it almost useless. The only takeaway from the study with me is like two months of dietary change can change your rate of aging. So, it led me to experiment more with people and let them try different diets and see which one actually decreases the rate of aging.

Ben: So, if I send you a drop of my blood, are you using that same blood for all three analyses, or do you do three different tests on each person?

Matt: No. So, there are three different tests. There’s one’s from Harvard, one’s Yale, and one’s Duke. However, we use the same company that actually gives us report on all three. It’s TruDiagnostic is the company. And so, I’ll look at all three. I’ll look at the Symphony Age, see if there’s a specific organ system we need to work on. I’ll look at the OMICm Age, look at the EBPs, see what we can do. And then, look at the PACE. And the PACE is where we do our [00:27:55]____ of one studies and compare over time.

Ben: Now, couldn’t I go to TruDiagnostic and just order that test to my house? And if I got the data back, you’re saying it would have all three of those tests on it?

Matt: You can, absolutely. And that’s what we use. And we use it at Wild Health, in conjunction with the genomic data, with the blood work, with wearable data that we’re tracking. So, the more data we have, the better. But, absolutely, if someone did not want to see us, did not want to sign up with us, and they want to order, yeah, TruDiagnostic just sells that test to individuals as well.

Ben: And we actually do have a discount code if you want to use it for TruDiagnostic. If you just want to order one of those up until Matt rolls out all the powers that he has at Wild Health. And that’s going to be BenVIP. I’ll put links in the shownotes where you can get the TruDiagnostic test. But BenVIP, if you go to

I think that one of the issues here, you know, kind of like you alluded to how you’re combining with wearable data with blood data with, you know, other markers and measurements that you’re making is how to actually, in a scalable way, create actionable recommendations based on this data. I mean, I would imagine it’s going to take you hours and hours to sit down with all of this and actually generate recommendations for each person. This is something I’ve been scratching my head about for a long time is, why can’t AI do this yet? Like, why can’t a robot just analyze all this stuff and spit out recommendations?

Matt: The platform that we built does that. So, we take in 700,000 SNPs with the genomics, the 950,000 CPG sites, the blood work, the wearables phenotypic data, to give recommendations. So, that is we developed an AI model to do that. We also have now built that on top of a large language model to where you can interact with it so that you can ask questions of it of about your diet. 

To give you an example of that is some of the EBPs, these epigenetic biomarker proxies that have been developed, are around nutrition and what is your different vitamins and minerals. So, this all could be put into the large language model, and you could actually then ask it, “What is the perfect diet for me?” Not the perfect diet even but “Design a meal plan for me over the next 7 days.” And based on their blood work of their omega-3 or the EBP of their omega-3, and everything else, they take all that into account. And the LLM, just like you could ask ChatGPT, “Give me a seven-day meal plan, shopping list for it,” and all this stuff, and it could give it to you. This LLM can do that but with your personal information from the epigenetics, the genetics, the blood work, and all of that. Now, I say we have that. We have not released that into the wild.

Ben: That’s what I was going to ask you is, where can you get this? 

Matt: Yeah. So, here’s what I’ll do. We actually have a closed beta, and I’ll get you a test flight version of that, too.

Ben: That’ll be sick.

Matt: It’s pretty cool. But how we use it now, because of regulatory reasons, AI can’t practice medicine. We have it internally. So, when a patient sends a message and asks a question of a health coach or a physician, the LLM gives the doctor or the health coach recommended responses. And then, the health coach or doctor, we have a human in the loop, they can edit it, they can reject it, they can just kind of pass it along. So, we’re using it that way. The model that we’ll release into the wild, we’ll release this in the next couple of months, next few months, for our patients. It’ll be wellness only. So, no medical advice. Just about sleep, diet, exercise, those types of things. I used it recently. I got sick. I had a cold. It was so frustrating. I couldn’t workout. I’d go to the gym. I remember picking up heavy weights, and just putting them down for like 20 minutes. I couldn’t do anything. And I finally then started asking questions like, “I’m sick. I got to do something. Give me a workout,” and it designed a workout for me based on my wearable data because my HRV was in the toil.

Ben: No way.

Matt: And all of that, yeah.

Ben: Was that from your phone?

Matt: Yeah, yeah. It’s from the phone. 

Ben: Holy cow. This is kind of game-changer. Now, you know, last time we talked, you talked about your guys’ really impressive executive screening program and, you know, these really fancy concierge services that you have, is this one of those deals where somebody’s got to have like, you know, deep pockets and sign up for some kind of a $50,000 annual program to have access to your algorithms and your software?

Matt: So, this is the one of the things that’s really bothered me about what we do. What we do is expensive to deliver right now. But I mean, I grew up with nothing. And where I came from, people can’t afford that. This is the solution to that. So, again, when initially roll this out the next few months, it’ll be just for our patients initially. But my dream is to get this out to everyone. To where it’s a scalable version, the marginal costs are very cheap. It’s not free, because LLMs are expensive with all the calls. But we talking about 10s of dollars per month, not 1,000s of dollars per month. And this is like, I get excited. Like, I’m getting a little bit of cold chills right now just thinking about it. Being able to get this type of Precision Medicine out to everybody, and it’ll be to our patients the next several months. And, hopefully, to anyone and everyone in the next year, so.

Ben: By the way, when you say LLM, what’s that mean?

Matt: Sorry, large language model.

Ben: Okay, okay. So, have you actually tried the diet thing? Have you fed it through to see what kind of diet would be right for you?

Matt: I have. And for me, I also have kind of like what I want and what I’ve liked and developed over time. So, it’s been kind of spot on. It’s been things that I enjoy, and I don’t actually ask it. I should. Say, what kind of diet, I just kind of ask it about foods in general and I enjoy eating. So, I haven’t used it like for the seven-day meal plan or things like that, but just playing with it. I’ve said, “Hey, suggest a meal for to me tonight,” and it’s done. That I kind of enjoy doing that myself.

Ben: Now, what if you throw it a curveball? What if it’s taking all your data in, but it doesn’t know that you want to do an Ironman Triathlon? Or you’re really hardcore into CrossFit and you need a lot more glycolytic throughput, and yet it is predicting that eating a lot of sugars and carbohydrates would potentially be deleterious for your long-term metabolic health or your biological age? Does it take into account your goals, your activity levels, or anything like that?

Matt: Yeah. So, it can’t read your mind, but it actually can read your activity levels. So, we pull wearable data in as well. So, like I mentioned the HRV, when I was sick, was being weigh down and it can read that. So, you can certainly actually just tell it what you want. Say, “Hey, design something for me, but I’m training for an Ironman and I’m doing a three-hour workout tomorrow.” It’s not going to know that. What it will see is, if over time, and you can actually log the foods you’re eating as well each day. So, what it will see if you’re logging your food is, based on your food log and your activity, because it’s pulling from your Whoop, your Apple watch, your Oura, pulls all that data, and it’ll see your recovery is dropping. And it’ll suggest, “Hey, it looks like you didn’t have enough calories over the last week because your HRV is going down, your resting heart is going down, you’re doing two hours of workouts per day. And looking at your food log, it’s just not enough.” So, you have to give it that data. It’ll pull your wearable data, your activity, but you got to tell it what you’re eating and you got to tell it what your goals are. But you certainly can, when you say develop a seven-day plan, say “I’m training for an Ironman,” or “I’m trying to lose weight,” and it’ll adjust accordingly.

Ben: Yeah. That’s so cool. Is it really a thing that AI can’t practice medicine? Meaning, like if I go to the ChatBot and I say, “Hey, I’ve got the sniffles and a headache and an earache. Act like the world’s best doctor, which prescription pharmaceutical should I be on?” Am I breaking the law if I do that?

Matt: No, you’re not. And it can practice medicine. It’s just not allowed to. So, when I say, we can’t practice medicine, I’m talking from a regulatory standpoint.

Ben: That’s what I mean. Like, they can’t regulate that on a consumer level. But what you’re saying is like a physician or medical network, it isn’t allowed to do that.

Matt: Yeah. And so, like the way we’ve built it. We put guard rails in. Like, we’ve taught it what medical advice is, and we’ve told it don’t do that. So, we had to kind of dumb it down so that we not going to get in trouble double when it’s released.

Ben: Yeah, that’s really neat. So, as far as actionable advice, like you mentioned, calorie restriction, and obviously, within reason, that can be a longevity-enhancing strategy. Have you found out anything else as far as ways to slow the pace of aging? Or simultaneously maximize health span from this data that you’ve been gathering?

Matt: For sure. So, I think the important part here is how individualized it is and how something like the PACE test allows you to do N-of-1 studies. So, we could — because you and I could talk forever about metformin, and senolytics, and NAD, and spermidine, and rapamycin, and we could talk about the evidence for those and how good it is or bad it is for populations, but I don’t treat populations. I don’t really care so much about populations. I’ll use that to develop a hypothesis. So, I look at the rapamycin data. I’ll look at your data, and it will have like a recommendation hypothesis. But the hypothesis is not good enough. 

What I then will do is say, “Great. Now, let’s try rapamycin.” And I think the benefits outweigh the risks for you, Ben Greenfield or whoever I’m talking about. Now, let’s do a PACE test. Let’s do it for 3 months. Let’s do another PACE test. And then, we’ll decide if this is going to be in your stack or not in your stack. So, that’s the way that I like to approach all of these kind of biohacks and other things; how do you feel, and then what is your rate of aging, and then the other biomarkers, and we do the other blood test, too. But to me, if we just — like you talked about VO2 max and grip strength, those are integrators of everything else you’re doing, that’s what the PACE test is for me. It’s a very nice one-number integrator. And even if, it’s not necessarily perfect like if you did a bunch of calorie restrictions probably got to be improved. But if your goal, like you mentioned, is to get stronger and gain muscle, you’re not going to do that. So, it’s still a piece of information, but it’s a really powerful piece of information for you to figure out exactly what works for you.

Ben: Well, speaking of calorie restriction, I don’t know if you saw that new study — if you want to call it that, about intermittent fasting and heart disease. I was curious to hear your opinion on that if you saw it.

Matt: I did. I think the science on it was so bad. I was honestly hoping you wouldn’t bring it up. Because, yeah, it’s kind of taken the world by storm. All these media outlets reporting on it. And just similar to the vegan versus omnivore twin study at Stanford, I just don’t think it was a good science at all. And even if it was, it’s a population-based one, too. So, it’s again, going to each person, how it’s going to affect them is what I really care about.

Ben: Yeah. I mean, well, I think one of the main things I saw was the population that had the high risk of heart disease in response to intermittent fasting, also had a high of smoking, they were low income with poor access to high-quality food, and they had high BMIs. And I don’t know if it was a food intake questionnaire study, but that can also throw wrench in things. Because I don’t know about you, Matt, but if you ask me what I ate like last Sunday, I have no clue.

Matt: No. Anything based on food questionnaires, you just kind of throw away immediately. Nobody’s good at that. That’s been proven over and over.

Ben: What about the one that a lot of people are talking about right now regarding niacin? Did you see that? Like, the link between niacin and heart disease?

Matt: No, I didn’t.

Ben: Okay. Yeah. It was basically showing that there’s this inflammatory marker. I believe it’s called 4PY. And when elevated, it can put you at risk for heart disease. And they tested people’s levels of 4PY and showed that to be the case. But then, even though I don’t think they actually gave people niacin, or NR or NMN, they then went on to hypothesize that high long-term intake of these supplements could contribute to heart disease by elevating this 4PY. It was pretty interesting. I mean, the big takeaway that I got, especially reading Chris Masterjohn‘s review of it, is that you need to be cautious with high-dose niacin, or high-dose NR or NMN intake for long periods of time. In this case, for niacin, it would be like above 250 milligrams daily, for months on end. And also, that if you wanted to keep NAD levels elevated, which is why a lot of people will use NR or NMN, it might be safer to just use NAD because that does not result in the same increase in 4PY.

Matt: That’s interesting, yeah. I’ll dig into that. That’s a really interesting study.

Ben: Yeah, yeah. So, what else have you changed about your own lifestyle, or diet, or exercise program, or your approach to patients in general based on what you’ve learned from this data?

Matt: Yeah. So, the approach — I’ll talk about myself, specifically. I think the approach to individuals is pretty straightforward. The niacin paper, like all of these studies, are data points and they again can help us with a hypothesis of what we’re going to try for someone. But I’m just very committed to having the objective markers of testing before and after. 

So, for myself, for example, I test actually once a month on the PACE, and that’s probably a little too much but I like to do a lot of experiments. And this is very interesting, this confirmed some beliefs I have. But when I think about how to maximally extend health span, I think as much as we could talk about all those biohacks, the number one thing is very unsexy and it’s just connection. And what I what I mean by that is I think so much of our disease in the developed world has to do with disconnection. And I’m talking about disconnection from ourselves, our bodies, our food, nature, others, relationships, and something bigger than ourselves. So, for example, a couple PACEs ago, I had a score of 0.88. So, I’m was aging 12% slower than baseline. So, great. That’s fine. But I was going through a really stressful time in my life. And I decided to make a real focus on those things like connection to myself, my relationship, spending more time meditating, or praying, and really focus on connection. And my next PACE after that, without any biohacks or special stuff, was 0.76. So, that’s a really incredible, absolute risk reduction, absolute reduction of 12%.

Ben: Wow.

Matt: So, what that means is, if I have 40 more years to live, I’m going to add 5 years to my health span. And if you were to cure cancer — so, I talked about GRAIL. The test earlier. They’re not trying to cure; they’re trying to diagnose it earlier. If you were to cure cancer, you only add three years to your lifespan, and that’s not even health span. Because you’re still getting old and frail. So, just for me, the number one thing I found, and I’ve believed this for a while, so maybe it was a little bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy is that connection. And when I say connection to our bodies, it’s like listening to our bodies and doing the exercise, doing some hard stuff, but also listening when I’m doing too much. From the food, like having a connection to the food, your food and where it comes from. Really focusing on your relationships like backing off of work and kind of this achieving that stuff. And then, again, the connection to a higher power than you, that stuff. I mean, we’ve known, like there’s a great Harvard study in health span and relationships, where the one thing that made the biggest difference. So, we’ve kind of have this evidence. But to see it for myself was really great, and I love talking about that, too. Because, as bad for business as it is, you don’t need a doctor for that. You don’t need Wild Health. You don’t need anyone else, just focusing on that that connection.

Ben: That is pretty cool. You can use yourself as an N=1 like that, and adapt on the fly. But it kind of begs the question about how long it would take to get the results back. Because let’s say you make a lifestyle change, that they could have risk. Like, you start, I don’t know running, or lifting weight too much, or you introduce the wrong kind of oils, or you change up to a diet that actually doesn’t really pair well with your genetics, how soon can you actually see that data come back? Like, how long do you have to wait once you send in the blood test?

Matt: Yeah. So, the Twin study, that was an eight-week study. And that showed some changes. In general, most of the stage where you look at PACE, it’s a few months. It’s two to three months. So, my doing it every once a month is probably a little too much to really see a significant change. But it also comes into play like when you do make these changes — again, we’re doing them in an educated way. Like, if someone says, “I want to see what smoking does to my pace.” We’re not going to do that test. So, we want to be smart about the tests we do. There’s enough things that show evidence for increasing health span. I mean, we probably, you and I could probably come up with a list of a hundred things. There’s enough things with good evidence that we kind of start at the top of the list, the most likely thing to work and go from there.

Ben: Yeah, that makes sense. But how — what I mean is, how long does it actually take to get your results back once you send the test in?

Matt: Yeah. I think when we send them, it’s usually two to three weeks.

Ben: Okay. So, less than a month basically. 

Matt: Yeah. So, if you do intervention for a couple months, then send the test, you have it back, so it’ll be three months of doing it. But you certainly could do it for two months, and the test off and then stop, and then start it again or not; depending on what your results were.

Ben: Are you still using more advanced diagnostics with your screenings at Wild Health? Meaning, full body MRI, CT angiography, things like that?

Matt: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, we are. And it just depends on the risk factors for the person, their lab tests. I mean, if someone has really elevated inflammatory markers, and really elevated triglycerides, and Lp(a) and Lp(b), and we’re worried about their heart, then we’ll do it Cleerly scan. If they have a cancer history, we may do the whole body MRI sooner or a GRAIL test. So, this biologic age test that we’re talking about is a hot topic. It’s not a replacement for everything. It’s another piece of data, but it’s just a really powerful piece of data. We want as much data as we can get to make these decisions.

Ben: And of all these newer diagnostic tests, besides biological age, which is obviously super cool, are there any other tests or diagnostic tools that you have your eye on or that you’ve seen up and coming and some of the research you’ve been doing?

Matt: So, I think you named them, and we’ve named most of them. So, just to go through the list quickly. Like, the genomics. It’s great because it gives us all your risk factors, 20% of your health outcome. So, we got to have that. Your operating system. All the blood biomarkers that we’re all familiar with. I mean, your metabolic health, obviously. We’re seeing all these things that are pretty basic and all of your listeners understand. Then, when we start thinking about what’s going to be most likely the thing that kills you, it’s going to be cardiovascular disease, cancer, dementia. So, for cardiovascular disease, we’re getting a Cleerly scan usually on most people after they’re 40. And if it’s perfect and at zero, we’ll follow them for a long time more before we do another one. But if they’ve have some plaque, we may get another one in two years to see their trajectory. So, we know how hard to push on cardiovascular risk. The whole body MRI and the GRAIL, the Galleri test, I feel really good. Once I’ve gotten all the lab tests on someone, a Galleri test, a whole body MRI, and a Cleerly scan, I feel really good about them not developing one of these things that we all hear these horrific stories about someone in their 40s dying from.

Ben: I don’t want to put you on the spot. You don’t have to ask or answer this question if you don’t want to. But in running a lot of these tests on yourself, is there something that you’re really concerned about for yourself that’s probably like the number one biggest pain point for you, or from genetic standpoint, the thing that you want to address the most?

Matt: Yeah. I mean, for me my grandfather died at 48 of cancer. One of my grandfathers, the others died in his 50s as well. And so, that’s always on my list. So, because of that, and I do have some — I know that I have increased risk of that, so I will probably, a little more often, do a Galleri test and a whole body MRI. So, even though we’re talking about all these objective markers, family history is critically important as well. I don’t have anything on my labs per se. And on my genetics, I don’t have an APOE4, for example. Even though my grandmother had Alzheimer’s disease, and my mother has an APOE4. I don’t have that. So, for me, it’s about the biggest risks right now are what I’ve seen in my family members because all my labs look great and they should. I’m 42 right now.

Ben: Would you say that’s the biggest advantage of a full-body MRI, is early cancer detection?

Matt: Yes. However, like we pick up other things. Most of the time, it’s nothing. But you certainly get other information. Just about your back, or which really doesn’t tell us anything. But you’ll find AVMs, or arteriovenous malformations, in the brain or other things which need to monitor more frequently. So, the biggest one is finding early tumors. I mean, I also had an aunt who died in her 50s from cancer, from breast cancer, which has a 90% survival rate of caught in Stage 1. But in Stage 4, it’s almost reversed. Like, it’s really hard to survive that. So, that early detection is really important and that’s what we try to do is to very early detect these. 

And that brings up an important point actually about methylation risk scores, which is an extension of those EBPs. So, when I mentioned that with EBPs, you can see triglycerides, these 4,000 different epigenetic biomarker proxies, you can extrapolate out and realize, just like with the example I gave you of neurosyphilis, why not find the pattern for coronary artery disease, for early cancers which GRAIL has. So, Harvard is doing a study right now, which I’m really excited about, where they’re looking at the top eight diagnoses in the world and trying to find those patterns. I’ve seen some preliminary data on it, and it’s really incredible. Their y methylation risk score for diabetes is actually pretty similar with Au-C4, it’s hemoglobin A1c, kind of around 0.84. So, I think in the future, this is why I said DNA methylation is the future of testing. I think it was — I can’t remember who it was that said “software is eating the world,” like 10 years ago. I think of DNA methylation testing is going to eat the world of diagnostics. Because they’ll find this fingerprint for coronary artery disease. 

So, right now, coronary artery disease, you can do Framingham scores, which are really horrible sensitivity specificity. But to make the diagnosis, you do a cath or a stress test. With these methylation risk scores, a drop of blood may have better sensitivity and specificity for these really invasive tests. So, I think in the next two to three, maybe four years, this drop of blood test is going to potentially replace so much of diagnostic testing; such a large percentage of it.

Ben: Did you see the old Disney cartoon, “Aladdin”?

Matt: Yeah. I’m so curious where that’s going.

Ben: It’s like phenomenal cosmic power, teeny tiny lit his face. It’s like phenomenal predictive power, teeny tiny drop of blood. That’d be your tagline, man.

Matt: Yeah. We’ll take it, yeah. 

Ben: Well, this is just super interesting. What I’m going to do is put all this in the shownotes. If you guys really like this idea of Precision Medicine and you want to understand it better, I would definitely go listen to the other podcasts I’ve done with Matt, because there’s three or four of them. And the notes are going to be at; like Dr. Dawson. And I will also link to Wild Health so you can keep your finger on the pulse of what they’re doing over there. And also, stay up to date on the rate at which they’re rolling out this predictive modeling. And, Matt, I’ll link to, you know, your executive health screenings and everything else that you do. But you still have kind of a network of physician, mostly nationally. Is it internationally or nationally?

Matt: It’s nationally, yes. The practice of medicine is pretty highly regulated. We’re in all 50 states, so yeah. Anyone in the U.S. Once we do have the app, the goal will be to make that international because it’ll be a wellness thing. But for right now, we’re in all 50 states. We do have a code; BEN20, for 20% off anybody that signs up. But again, I always like to really stress the connection part anytime I’m talking to anyone because you can get I think 80 to 90% of the way there, just focusing on those natural things, and the connection to others, and yourself. And I just think it’s so important to stress that, instead of trying to sell someone on something very expensive. But if someone does want an incredible amount of data, they want the AI Precision recommendation that we’re in all 50 states and taking patients.

Ben: And to wrap your head more around the connection piece, I actually just finished a book a couple months ago called the, “Cancer Connection.” Directly highlighting what you just talked about the link between lack of relationships, loneliness, and onset of progression of cancer. So, it’s absolutely important. It’s not as sexy to think about, but it certainly is fun to gather your friends and go play some pickleball. Right, Matt? 

Matt: Absolutely. 

Ben: Yeah. All right, folks. Well, I’m Ben Greenfield, along with Matt Dawson, signing out from Again, shownotes are at Thanks for tuning in. 

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Reading Time: 7 minutes

What We Discuss with Dr. Matthew Dawson

-Welcoming Dr. Matt Dawson back to the show for his seventh appearance – 05:25

-The use of ketones – 06:56

-Epigenetics and methylation testing – 10:47

-The three tests at Wild Health – 24:03

-Creating actionable recommendations based on data – 37:00

-Heart disease studies — intermittent fasting and niacin – 45:54

-Changes in his personal life and approach to patients – 48:21

-The use of advanced diagnostics and other tests and tools – 52:57

-And much more…

In today’s episode, you’ll dive deep into the world of cutting-edge diagnostics and personalized health management with Dr. Matthew Dawson, a seven-time guest. You might know Dr. Dawson for his groundbreaking work at Wild Health (use code BEN20 to save 20%), where he’s revolutionizing patient care with advanced DNA methylation testing and AI-driven health recommendations.

During this show, Dr. Dawson and I explore the intriguing evolution of methylation tests, demystify various biological age tests, and provide insights into how lifestyle choices significantly impact gene expression. Additionally, you’ll discover the potential of AI in providing personalized health advice, the importance of human connection, proactive cancer detection strategies, and much more.

Dr. Dawson attended medical school at the University of Kentucky before completing his residency in emergency medicine at The University of Utah, where he served as both chief resident and fellow. He has practiced medicine and was an associate professor at the University of Kentucky for seven years, with an acute interest in functional medicine and, later, genomics.

Dr. Dawson’s obsession with performance optimization began well before medical school. In high school, he would implement any fitness or nutrition technique that’d give him “an edge” in athletics, resulting in college scholarship offers in two sports. Dr. Dawson carried this obsession with him through medical school and into his profession as a physician, earning numerous national awards for education, innovation, and leadership because of his research and approach to health care.

Dr. Dawson crystallized this approach to providing patients with true health care, rather than sick care, by building Wild Health — a Precision Medicine service providing personalized, genetics-based care to help patients achieve optimal well-being. Dr. Dawson has trained thousands of physicians in Precision Medicine through online education and has lectured in over twenty countries around the world. He also co-hosts the Wild Health Podcast, a tool for teaching thousands about personalized, genetics-based Precision Medicine. His passion for helping patients maximize their health span and perform at their absolute best considers all aspects of health: mental, physical, and spiritual.

You can find all of my podcasts featuring Dr. Dawson listed below:

Please Scroll Down for the Sponsors, Resources, and Transcript.

Episode Sponsors:

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Resources from this episode:

– Dr. Matt Dawson:

– Podcasts:

– Book mention:

-Other Resources:

– Ben’s TruDiagnostic TrueAge Results:

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  • Wim Hof Method Travel — Seminarzentrum Riederalp, Germany: December 11–15, 2024

Join the attendees who come from all over the world, seeking to push themselves to new heights, process hardships or trauma, and simply enrich their lives with new experiences and friendships. You can discover more and book your spot here!

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