In the past, researchers studied aging by looking at the effects of lifestyle and disease on elderly subjects. More recently, a wave of research has come along that shows that it may be just as important to study the genetics of healthy people before age-related decline begins to set in.
An international group of researchers from Duke University in North Carolina, King's College London and the Karolinska Insitutet in Sweden has just discovered a genetic test that can be used to determine how well an individual will age. The test looks for the signature expression of a set of 150 genes that the researchers found could be used to determine a person's "biological age", rather than relying strictly on chronology to determine how old someone is.
"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," said lead researcher James Timmons of King's College London in a statement. "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."
This genetic signature was found to be independent of lifestyle factors like activity level, diet and other environmental factors. When the researchers calculated the biological ages of 70-year-old men using this set of 150 genetic markers, they found that those who scored as younger were more likely to stay healthy as they aged. Over the course of 12 years, these men experienced better cognitive and renal functioning than those who had biological ages closer to their chronological ages.
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