The study findings provide strong evidence that dementia in humans could be called a type of accelerated aging.
A gene signature that could be used to predict the onset of diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, years in advance has been developed in research published in the open access journal Genome Biology.
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The study aimed to define a set of genes associated with healthy aging in 65 year olds. A molecular profile could be useful for distinguishing people at earlier risk of age-related diseases.
“Our discovery provides the first robust molecular signature of biological age in humans and should be able to transform the way that 'age' is used to make medical decisions. This includes identifying those more likely to be at risk of Alzheimer’s, as catching those at early risk is key to evaluating potential treatments.”In particular, resarchers demonstrated that patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease had an altered healthy aging RNA signature in their blood, and therefore a lower healthy age gene score, suggesting significant association with the disease.
“This is the first blood test of its kind that has shown that the same set of molecules are regulated in both the blood and the brain regions associated with dementia, and it can help contribute to a dementia diagnosis. This also provides strong evidence that dementia in humans could be called a type of accelerated aging or failure to activate the healthy ageing program.”Rather than looking for genes associated with disease or extreme longevity, the Medical Research Council (MRC)-funded researchers discovered that the activation of 150 genes in the blood, brain and muscle tissue were a hallmark of good health at 65 years of age.
The researchers were then able to create a reproducible formula for healthy aging, and use this to tell how well a person is aging when compared to others born the same year.
The researchers found an extensive range in ‘biological age’ scores of people born at the same time indicating that a person’s biological age is separate and distinct to his or her chronological age.
Physical capacity such as strength or onset of disease is often used to assess healthy aging in the elderly but in contrast, we can now measure aging before symptoms of decline or illness occur.
'We now need to find out more about why these vast differences in aging occur, with the hope that the test could be used to reduce the risk of developing diseases associated with age.'
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This research was funded by the Medical Research Council, the Innovative Medicines Initiative (EU/EFPIA), the Wallenberg Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.
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