A new way of measuring a person’s ‘biological age’ has been developed, thanks to new research from Exeter Medical School and a team of international researchers.
In the largest human molecular study to date, the research group used over 15,000 blood samples from people around the world in order to find easy to measure markers of human ageing.
Through the unique method, which focused on identifying changes in ‘gene expression’, the research team found 1,497 genes linked to ageing, of which 1,450 were newly discovered. These genes work together in pathways in order to generate energy for cells, whilst also maintaining metabolic processes and the stability and flexibility of the cells. A link between these genes and diet, smoking and exercise was also uncovered.
The study also found that those with a biological age higher than their true age were more likely to develop high blood pressure or cholesterol, amongst other conditions.
True causes of aging still remain largely unknown, although research has found that risk of cancer, heart disease and stroke – three of the leading causes of death – increases with age.
Dr Luke Pilling, Associate Research Fellow in Genomic Epidemiology at the University, commented on the significance of the findings: “This study has not only given insights into ageing mechanisms – such as mitochondrial function – but these techniques have potential use in prediction and treatment.
“Large, observational, and collaborative projects such as these provide a great platform to focus ageing research in the future, with the hope that predictive tests can be developed, and treatment strategies for age-related conditions improved.”
The research, ‘The transcriptional landscape of age in human peripheral blood’, is available in the online edition of scientific journal, Nature Communications.