Multigenerational Study Finds Signature of Aging

Why is it that people can look so much older or younger than their age on the calendar? The Salk Institute, looking at skin cells, have found age-related genetic patterns. The skin cells came from more than 100 people from all different age groups — ages one to 94. The study seems to be able to predict your health as you age.

“This experiment was designed to determine whether there are molecular signatures of aging across the entire range of the human life span,” says co-senior author Saket Navlakha, an assistant professor in Salk’s Integrative Biology Laboratory. “We want to develop algorithms that can predict healthy aging and nonhealthy aging, and try to find the differences.”

According to researchers, the test could be broadened to detect when people are aging faster than their chronological age. That would help spot people at risk for age-related conditions, making it easier for doctors to advise them about changing lifestyle habits before diseases occur. The researchers used machine learning to study the RNA in the skin samples. The program looked for any similarities or patterns in the skin. They didn’t program any prerequisites into the research to ensure that no biases or false negatives were spotted. The researchers called it, “a kitchen sink approach.” Using their results, they looked at the skin of people with progeria — a genetic condition that causes accelerated aging — the patients’ samples all presented as being at least 10 years older than their chronological age.

Navlakha said, “If we are able to show that the changes we’ve seen… are connected with aging in other types of cells, we may eventually be able to use these signatures to develop targeted interventions.” Incredibly, according to the researchers, clinical applications may be available in just five years. This new research could not only help predict problems as individuals age, or help us prevent or mitigate them in single patients. It could also unlock more studies into aging and build a healthier tomorrow for whole communities!

March 15, 2019
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