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.
The study aimed to define a set of genes associated with ‘healthy ageing’ in 65 year olds. Such a molecular profile could be useful for distinguishing people at earlier risk of age-related diseases. This could improve upon the use of chronological age and complement traditional indicators of disease, such as blood pressure.
Lead author James Timmons, from King’s College London, UK, said: “We use birth year, or chronological age, to judge everything from insurance premiums to whether you get a medical procedure or not. Most people accept that all 60 year olds are not the same, but there has been no reliable test for underlying ‘biological age’.
“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.”
The researchers analyzed the RNA of healthy 65 year old subjects, and used the information to develop a signature of 150 RNA genes that indicated ‘healthy ageing’. The signature was found to be a reliable predictor for risk of age-related disease when studying RNA from tissues including human muscle, brain and skin.
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