JAN 12, 2017 06:41 AM PST

What Your Blood Says About Your Age


Forget counting years and birthdays. Researchers find that to accurately know how old you are biologically, look no further than the biomarkers in your blood.

For years, we’ve been taught to put more emphasis on our chronological age. Doctors and health experts make recommendations for foods, drugs, activities based on chronological age since birth. For example, parents are told not to feed their baby cow’s milk until 12 months of age; in some states, booster seats are required for children 8 years or younger. The list of health rules based on our age continues. But perhaps chronological age isn’t the only way to tell how old your body is. Furthermore, it may not be the most accurate way to understand aging.

To study molecular aging and discover biomarkers that can reveal a body’s age, researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine collected blood from over 4,700 people over an 8-year study. From these samples the team analyzed 19 biomarkers, which are small chemicals in the blood. These biomarkers were involved in a host of bodily functions, including immune system processes, kidney function, and lipid metabolism.  After the biomarker signatures were compiled, the team compared these to the occurrence of diseases and the participants’ health.

Analysis revealed 26 biomarker signatures, with “signature 1” deemed as the reference point. By comparison, “signature 2 was associated with significantly lower mortality, morbidity, and better physical function,” the team wrote in their report. Another 9 signatures were associated with “higher risks for frailty, morbidity, and mortality.”

"These signatures depict differences in how people age, and they show promise in predicting healthy aging, changes in cognitive and physical function, survival and age-related diseases such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and cancer," the team concluded in their study.

The molecular profiles have big potentials, according to the researchers. For instance, they imagine that the signatures could be used to predict how patients will respond to drugs. In this way, drug trials may build in different screening criteria to select the appropriate patients for the trials.

Better still, the molecular signatures could give a glimpse into the patient’s medical future and their predisposition for age-related conditions. This combined with genetic sequencing could provide physicians with an unprecedented dearth of information from which to guide their treatment plans for patients.

"We can now detect and measure thousands of biomarkers from a small amount of blood, with the idea of eventually being able to predict who is at risk of a wide range of diseases, long before any clinical signs become apparent," said Thomas Perls, the study’s senior author.

As promising as the results are, they still need to be replicated and further validated before hard conclusions can be drawn. Nevertheless, the results open an additional avenue, besides genetic sequencing, from which we can learn about our health predispositions.

Additional sources: Live Science

About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
JUN 08, 2018
Clinical & Molecular DX
JUN 08, 2018
Early Detection of Tooth Decay from Bacterial Invasion
We all get cavities, but have we ever thought much about the biology of the process? From the Akson Russian Science Communication Association, scientists i...
JUN 12, 2018
Cell & Molecular Biology
JUN 12, 2018
Loss of Brain Lesions may Indicate Worsening MS
New research could help doctors determine how severe a case of multiple sclerosis will become....
JUL 11, 2018
Clinical & Molecular DX
JUL 11, 2018
Certain tests better flag fetuses with brain disorder risk
Fetuses with a specific, rare chromosomal aberration have a 20 percent risk of developmental or other brain disorder, new research shows. The work could le...
OCT 29, 2018
Cannabis Sciences
OCT 29, 2018
Can Marijuana be Toxic?
Many users of marijuana believe that it is relatively safe, particularly because, as believed, one cannot overdose on the drug. ...
NOV 29, 2018
Genetics & Genomics
NOV 29, 2018
Pet Genomics Might Need to be Leashed
Experts say genetic testing for pets is not quite ready for the market, but that hasn't stopped companies from selling tests....
DEC 05, 2018
DEC 05, 2018
Male Contraceptive Gel is in Clinical Trials
Researchers have started a clinical trial involving 420 participants to test the efficacy of a male contraceptive gel....
Loading Comments...