A team of researchers from the University of Edinburgh, Australia and the USA have been able to identify chemical changes in DNA that can be used to estimate the length of a person’s life.
The study looked at the process of methylation, which determines how genes can be turned on and off within the DNA and is used to calculate a biological age, which can then be compared to chronological age. Individuals who are biologically older than their chronological age are more likely to die early.
A total of four independent studies followed the lives of 5,000 older people over 14 years. Their biological age was determined from a blood sample at the beginning of the study. The link between high biological age and early death was replicated across all the studies, even when environmental factors such as smoking, heart disease and diabetes were taken into account.
Principal investigator Ian Deary said: “It is exciting as it has identified a novel indicator of ageing, which improves the prediction of lifespan over and above the contribution of factors such as smoking, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease."
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